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When I Fall And Can’t Get Up

When I was a kid, I remember seeing a series of commercials that would feature an elderly person who had fallen and would end up shouting “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”. The advertisements were for a device that would allow people in that situation to alert someone of their condition. The budget on these commercials was not especially large, and so, I admit, as a child, I sometimes found them a bit humorous. Maybe this is karma coming back to bite me, but in my adult life with Multiple Sclerosis, I’ve now been in that exact situation numerous times. Falling and being unable to get up on your own is terrifying and has an effect on you.

My history of falls

I’ve talked before about my problems with falling. It is an unfortunate side effect that many with Multiple Sclerosis have to endure and work hard to prevent. Muscle weakness, spasms, coordination problems, drop foot, and numbness are all common MS symptoms that increase our risk of falling. My neurologist constantly warns me about the danger and tells me I need to be more careful. He’s even told me that he sees it as my greatest risk. I know he’s right, too, because I’ve had some nasty falls that have lead to at least one bone break, numerous cuts (I once fell through a window), and many bumps and bruises. Most of the time, I’m able to dust myself off and get back to my feet on my own though.

When my arms are too weak to help me up

While I can usually get up and just rub or bandage whatever I’ve injured, that is not always the case. I’ve had a number of falls in my lifetime after which I simply couldn’t get up. I usually rely on my upper body to pull myself up and together after a fall, but sometimes, my arms and hands are just as weak and numb as my legs, which leaves me stuck, laying there, thinking I should have never giggled at those commercials as a kid. I often have help from my roommate or friends in getting back to my feet, however, I’m alone a lot, so I often have to lay there and wait for my body to begin to work again. There have been times though, when I’ve waited, and my body didn’t come around too quickly and I’ve had my roommate come home to me being sprawled out on the floor.

Being unable to get up is terrifying

Falling and being unable to get up is flat out terrifying. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings of helplessness and despair that cross over me when I’m lying there on the floor. How has this happened? I’m too young for this! What did I do to deserve this? So many questions and emotions go through me after a fall. It’s the kind of thing that can stick with you, too. The spots in the house where it’s happened, I sometimes shudder a bit when I pass by them. I clearly have an unhealthy fear of those areas, even though nothing specifically about those spots caused the falls. I’m not making my way around the house in fear or anything, but I do have moments when it crosses my mind.

I don’t always take precautions

I’m always working to prevent falls, though maybe not as much as I should. I should be wearing better shoes, I should be using my cane more, and I should probably go back to physical therapy. All of those things can help to prevent future falls, yet I don’t always do them.

Wanting to feel normal

I really have no right to complain about falling, when I don’t do everything I can to prevent it. I suspect there are a lot of people like that, though. I don’t take every measure possible, not because I think I know better, but because I’m just trying to feel a little more normal. Getting past that is something I need to do a better job and something I promise I will work on. I hope that by talking about this and reminding myself just how scary it is to fall and be unable to get up, that I’ll take better precautions to prevent falls in the future. I hope you will as well.

Thanks for reading!

Devin

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Comments

  • vvxjr9
    2 months ago

    Devin,

    I have falledn too many times, mainly inside. But the times that I have fallen outside, hitting the sidewalk, there wasn’t any good samitaran around. It was difficult to get back up. I really cringe when I try to walk and there are lots of people around. I want to be normal, look normal, and walk normal. Unfortunately, I can’t and I have to use a cane. Getting around using a cane just seems to convey something negative and then I feel very self-conscious.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 months ago

    Thank you @vvxjr9 , i certainly understand. I often find that the more “normal” I try to appear, the greater the chance of me falling. It’s important to remember that most folks don’t notice anything anyway.

  • vvxjr9
    2 months ago

    I’m not so sure that is true

  • vvxjr9
    4 months ago

    It is hard to get up to one’s feet after falling. I need something to hold onto to help me get back up. I crawl when necessary to get to some object that will help me get back on my feet.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thanks @vvxjr9, getting up is definetly difficult. I find it’s something I simply can’t rush, or I’ll make thing worse.

  • vvxjr9
    4 months ago

    I fall too many times at home, but with carpeting it’s soft and it doesn’t really hurt much. But, when I fell on the sidewalk that was completely different. I didn’t have time to fall correctly (like I was taught) and hit the sidewalk hard. I didn’t like wearing a cast in the middle of winter because I wasn’t able to put on gloves for my freezing hands.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    So sorry to hear that @vvxjr9! Thanks for sharing your story though, it’s very much appreciated and will resonate with many of us who go through the same thing!

  • chong61
    4 months ago

    I tend to fall a lot also. The best I did was to move all my furniture to the wall, remove all area rugs, coffee tables and anything that was not strong enough to hold me. When I walk, I always try to make sure if I fall it will be on something soft and of course for leaning in toward the furniture just makes me fall more, but something soft is better than a carpeted or tiled floor. I keep a walker close to my bed and one in the living area.

    Moving on to vertigo, you go down no matter how many precautions you take.

  • vvxjr9
    2 months ago

    We have wall to wall carpeting and I think it helps a lot in terms of having it to fall, but it also keeps things from being broken when they fall on the floor. I am forever dropping things.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thank you @chong61! Glad to here you are taking as many precautions as you can! I know exactly what you mean about vertigo though: https://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/vertigo-experience/

  • mdtam
    4 months ago

    I too have taken A lot of falls at home. Sometimes it’s a lot sometimes it’s once or twice a week. For some reason my MS seems to think I need to fall all the time to remind me I still have MS as if I don’t already know that or could ever forget. Lol. I’m not laughing or trying to make a joke of it because I’ve honestly ended up in the hospital from falling. I have to say though, I hope your dr knows you fall like this. If not please tell him. And if it gets worse you could be relapsing.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thanks @mdtam, it’s definitely important to have a sense of humor about it! I’ve ended up in a hospital a few times because of falls as well, they’re a very serious issue for anyone who deals with them.

  • Lupe
    4 months ago

    I totally relate to this. I have been falling ALL of my 56 years in this world and not just falling like kids do, I mean constantly, several times a day just walking! I never realized why until I was diagnosed in 2017 with MS. (Had an MRI because of drop foot) It definitely is no fun but I am so used to it that I don’t even think about it or get embarrassed, something my boyfriend does not understand. It’s true, chances are I will never see these people around me again so I just dust myself off, laugh and keep going. I had an incidence about 7 years ago at a theater with a friend who has seen me fall way too many times, where I fell into a 4 year old and felt so bad especially when the mom gave me a dirty look. At that time, I didn’t know why this kept happening to me.

    Devin, I too can’t help but think that this is my karma for laughing at things or people like that commercial when I was a kid.

    Anyway, in an attempt to be “normal” I forget to go slow or be extra vigilant so I do understand. Sometimes it’s fatigue that causes it. Thanks to you and the others who have commented, I have learned if you just wait a bit, your brain will “reset” and then you can get yourself up a lot easier. This is good to know especially now that I am having weakness in my right arm and hand which makes it more difficult to get back up. And by all means, I have learned to accept help from whoever is offering it.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thanks so much for sharing @Lupe! We have a lot in common!

  • Julie
    6 months ago

    Falling was always a private thing for me. Then I started falling in public which I find humiliating. Last month I finally got to see Bob Seeger in concert (bucket list for me!). I knew I was doing way too much walking, standing, sitting down but I didn’t care. On the way out of the arena, I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the top of the stairs. I counted them, 8 more to go. I fell, right there on the stairs.

    I don’t know why I push myself. I always know it’s going to end badly. I tend to lash out at people who only want to help me back on my feet when it’s really me that I’m mad at.

    I finally got back to my feet with the assistance of kind strangers but I was embarrassed none the less. My daughter was with me and couldn’t understand why I was so embarrassed about people I would never see again. Good question. Still didn’t help.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thank you Julie! It is embarrassing to fall in public, it shouldn’t be, but it’s hard to help those feelings.

  • LeeAnn
    6 months ago

    If you have drop foot it doesn’t matter what kind of precautions you take you are going down. I remember my husband at the time said I was in to big a hurry and to slow down after I fell. I didn’t realize it at the time that it was drop foot. I do remember that it felt like my foot just gave out on me when I went down a step to the sidewalk. I also have trouble getting up after I fall down. My legs just won’t cooperate. I was always very limber but not anymore with MS. I loose my balance a lot and that is scary. Albeit I do the best I can.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thank you LeeAnn, drop foot can be a very tough symptom. There are some options though: https://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/foot-drop/

  • H Parks
    6 months ago

    Devin,

    I, of course, can relate to this issue. When I fall, I try to immediately get back up, which NEVER works. I usually results in a more spectacular fall. I learned when I fell on a hike in the woods, if I just lay there for a few minutes, it gives my brain time to “reset” and and I can get back up pretty quickly. I also posted a question on an ‘outdoors for disabled’ about getting myself back up. I received a lot of great suggestions. And.. luckily plenty of humorous ones that reminded me to quit taking myself so serious.

    Once again, thanks for your GREAT posts!!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thanks so much H Parks! I find that I too need to not rush getting up. It definitely helps to take a couple minutes to compose yourself!

  • sueaceuk
    6 months ago

    Yes. It’s horrible. Lying waiting to see what will kick back in does for me. And the effort of avoiding falls adds to stress and fatigue. Use the cane, chair or whatever!

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