A woman with MS is leaning forward hunched over trying to stop from almost falling.

The Problem With Those Almost-Falls

Many years ago, I had the privilege to attend a very comprehensive therapy center that specializes in multiple sclerosis. One facility housed physical, occupational, and mental health therapists. If you attended, you saw them all, with a doctor overseeing the comprehensive treatment.

Documenting moments when I almost fell

When I first attended, they gave me a little notepad to carry around for a week. In this pad, I was supposed to write down every time I experienced not only a fall but moments when I almost fell. I was to include incidents where I saved myself from falling. Turns out, these moments are every bit as important as all those times I’ve hit the floor. I always considered those almost-fall scenarios as positives, but sometimes, those moments can be the most problematic.

My experience with falls

Over my very long time living with MS, I’ve had many, many falls. From falling in the middle of a crowded street and forcing traffic to stop to falling through a glass window, I’ve had my share of scary moments from them, too. For all the falls I’ve had, I have many more moments that weren't really falls. Times when I didn’t end up on the ground, yet they still had a significant impact on me.

Catching myself before I hit the ground

For example, experiencing foot drop and stumbling, but catching myself before I hit the ground or my legs suddenly going weak, but I reached out and held myself up with a wall. These types of scenarios happen every day and I am always pleased with myself whenever I end up not hitting the ground.

My most recent injury

As I am writing this, I have my left leg propped up with my ankle covered in ice: the result of a recent almost-fall. I was walking and my right leg (my more problematic side for MS symptoms) suddenly got extremely weak, and I felt myself about to hit the ground. I instinctively adjusted and shifted my weight onto my left leg and then leaned into a nearby wall. During that shifting of the weight to my good leg, I sprained my ankle on that leg pretty badly.

We can hurt ourselves more trying to prevent a fall

In reality, had I just allowed myself to fall, I might be in better shape now (a life filled with football and ice hockey taught me to become very good at falling). Now, I am not saying that to encourage falling, far from it, I’m simply pointing out that there are times when we prevent ourselves from falling, but still end up injuring ourselves. Now I am limping around and having to rely on my right leg, which could become weak at any moment.

I don't always follow my own advice

At the end of the day, this is my own fault. As much as I want to blame my MS, it’s not like this a new situation for me. If I listened to my doctors and used the walking aids that I’m supposed to, even in my house, I probably wouldn’t have injured myself. I’ve lived with MS for a very long time, I write about it, I talk to people about it, and I even offer up advice to those that want it. I don’t always follow my own advice though and that’s why I am sitting with my ankle all iced up. When we are prescribed something, it’s for a good reason.

It’s a serious issue

While it’s easy to simply associate these almost-falls as just the answer to “Where did that bruise come from?,” they can be much more serious than that. Not only can they cause injury (as in my current situation), they can be an important sign to share with your doctor. Almost falling should still be treated as falling when it comes to reporting your symptoms. It could very well be a sign of something serious, like a new exacerbation. So treat almost-falls with the respect and seriousness that they deserve, and remember to discuss them with your doctor.

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!

Devin

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