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Chapter 2: Recovering with Poles But Being Afraid to Walk

We ended our last chapter with me faced with the anxiety of having to follow doctor’s orders and begin standing and walking on my broken foot. I had never broken a bone before, nor had I ever experienced a fall that produced a major injury, and I was scared. Walking and exercising?? I knew he could not be serious.

It turns out, he was: placing weight on that foot and walking with the aid of a walking boot would not only strengthen the bone and keep muscles toned, but also prevent rare blood clots from forming. My recovery depended upon it, so I needed to take it seriously too. If I could only get past my fear.

The fear of falling is a very real condition with detrimental consequences. It can be experienced by those who have had serious falls, like me, or those who have never fallen but fear they will. Being afraid to fall limits activities related to daily living and exercise. Limiting this activity leads to loss of muscle strength and balance (if you don’t use it, you will lose it), which increases the risk of, you guessed it, falling.

While the risk of falling is higher in those over the age of 65, it is important that all of us pay attention much earlier. How many of us have adjusted our activities based on ‘being out of shape’ or ‘not wanting to try’. Do you avoid stairs and take the elevator? Do you avoid getting on the floor because it is difficult getting back up? Avoiding activity because you do not want to do it is a precursor to falling later. If you don’t use it, you will lose it; or more accurately, your body won’t have the tools it needs, i.e. muscle strength and coordination, to prevent you from falling when you stumble.