Regaining strength and confidence after a fall

15 March 2023

Slips and trips are inevitable, but the recovery process can be complicated by age.

By definition, anyone can experience a slip or a fall. Young people might fall off a skateboard, parents could injure themselves accompanying their child onto a trampoline, and the elderly may momentarily lose their balance crossing a car park or traversing a path. Broken bones and sprains can occur at any age, but recovering from these injuries becomes more complicated and time-consuming as the years pass.

In many respects, the process of regaining your previous strength and confidence prior to a stumble is a psychological one. The body often naturally heals, and in circumstances where it can’t, surgery may ensure a favourable outcome. The biggest battle many people face in their recovery is related to confidence – resuming the rhythms of life without fearing a setback or the recurrence of a previous injury. Those fears might result in missing out on preferred activities, or adopting an increasingly sheltered risk-averse life indoors.

These are our tips on regaining previous independence levels and confidence after a fall, both at home and around the garden…

Do things gradually

If you’ve spent a period of time non-weight bearing following a leg or foot injury, that limb will be considerably weaker due to muscular inactivity. Don’t try to do too much once you’re back on your feet, since pain and fatigue will usually ensue. Start with modest daily goals and gradually increase activity levels, scaling things back temporarily if you begin to develop recurring discomfort or complications. Listen to your body, and try to avoid taking painkillers which can mask its attempts at warning you about stresses and strains as they develop.

Invest in grippy footwear

It’s shocking how little tread many modern pairs of shoes provide. High heels are particularly bad for lacking grip, while formal shoes can be almost shiny underneath, and slippers are notorious for losing traction. Invest in stout boots with thick tread depths, or modern trainers with well-defined soles that won’t slide along the shelving or floors in shoe shops. Lace-up trainers accommodate swollen feet more easily than slip-ons, while boots that extend to (or above) the ankle provide added reassurance if you’re walking in slippery conditions.

Dedicate time to physiotherapy

If you’ve suffered an injury, quickly restoring muscular strength is vital. One way to achieve this is through repetitive activities, akin to a gym workout. For instance, strengthen a weakened leg by lying on your other side and lifting that leg high into the air, holding it for a second then lowering it. Regain flexibility in a damaged ankle by lifting it up and slowly tracing all the letters of the alphabet with your foot. One appointment with a physiotherapist could yield numerous workout recommendations, and there are loads of helpful tips online.

Learn from past experiences

If you slip on a wet path in your garden, subsequent downpours might temper any enthusiasm for being outdoors. There’s often no need to risk such conditions until your confidence is rebuilt, which is often simply a matter of time and patience. In the months following a fall, try to stick to outdoor activities in dry weather wherever possible. If your accident happened indoors, can you learn any lessons? Could wet en-suite tiles be covered by bathmats in future, or would skirting-level LED lighting and additional handrails make you feel safer on stairs?