Ask the Doc...
Dr. Lou Pack
“I’m 73 years old and just started tripping. Is this just part of aging?”
We’ve all tripped. But frequently doing this indicates a problem rather than a hap occurrence.
Less common, more serious causes involve problems like Parkinson’s disease, and strokes. Arthritis causes tripping by making it more difficult to lift your feet when walking. Heavy shoes with thick, ridged rubber soles can also be a cause, especially on carpet.
We assume we trip due to our age. But tripping is usually due to tight calf muscles that can cause you to fall or appear clumsy at any age; like children, whose parents tell them to “pick their feet up” when they walk.
Almost everyone will develop tight calf muscles. Simply walking causes these muscles to tighten and functionally shorten and it’s worse if we’re very active.
Picture a rubber band from the tips of your toes, going down the bottom of your foot, running up the back of your leg and attaching behind your knee. If that band is tight it will have a tendency to pull your foot downward and make it harder to pick your feet up when you walk. And that’s why most people trip!
Tight calf muscles can also cause pain in the fronts of the legs (shin splints) or stress fractures, bone spurs in the back of the heels, and ruptures of the Achilles tendon.
Take a look at the soles of your shoes, at the very ends where your toes would be. Wearing your shoes out in this area is a good clue that you have this problem.
Tight calves also affect sports. Tennis players will have a harder time on clay and runners will be slower on grass. Golfers will fatigue easier. Coaches and trainers often miss this condition as a major factor in decreased performance. Football players often suffer from this undetected problem than from dehydration.
Treatment consists of proper stretching exercises. Remember, the more active you are, the more you have to stretch. In severe cases a special trigger point injection can be given which is painless (really), often long lasting, and produces dramatic results. This can be quite affective even in elderly people.
So you may not be as clumsy as you think! And this may have nothing to do with your age. But if you continue to trip or have symptoms of a neurological disease, see your physician.
A former Clinical Instructor of Medicine at Emory, Dr. Pack practices at MCG at Reynolds Plantation. He works with patients who have arthritis and wish to decrease joint symptoms and remain active. He also treats athletes at all levels, including Olympic gold medalists, and helps the UGA Golf Team. For further information please see www.drloupack.com, drloupack.blogspot.com, or call (706) 454-0040.
PRINTED IN THE APRIL 9, 2009 EDITION