Physical therapy approaches to reduce fall and fracture risk among older adults

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2010 Jul;6(7):396-407. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2010.70. Epub 2010 Jun 1.


Falls and fall-related injuries, such as fractures, are a growing problem among older adults, often causing longstanding pain, functional impairments, reduced quality of life and excess health-care costs and mortality. These problems have led to a variety of single component or multicomponent intervention strategies to prevent falls and subsequent injuries. The most effective physical therapy approach for the prevention of falls and fractures in community-dwelling older adults is regular multicomponent exercise; a combination of balance and strength training has shown the most success. Home-hazard assessment and modification, as well as assistive devices, such as canes and walkers, might be useful for older people at a high risk of falls. Hip protectors are effective in nursing home residents and potentially among other high-risk individuals. In addition, use of anti-slip shoe devices in icy conditions seems beneficial for older people walking outdoors. To be effective, multifactorial preventive programs should include an exercise component accompanied by individually tailored measures focused on high-risk populations. In this Review, we focus on evidence-based physical therapy approaches, including exercise, vibration training and improvements of safety at home and during periods of mobility. Additionally, the benefits of multifaceted interventions, which include risk factor assessment, dietary supplements, elements of physical therapy and exercise, are addressed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*