Date of Award

1997

Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Physical Therapy (MPT)

Department

Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Beverly Johnson

Keywords

Postural Balance; Exercise Therapy; Muscle Weakness; Pliability

Abstract

Today, falls have become the most common life-threatening hazard in seniors. Falls have been associated with a number of disabilities including the muscular weakness and decreased flexibility that accompany aging. These factors may be involved in the poor balance that has also been idetified as a risk factor for falling. It was the purpose of this research project to: (1) determine if the exercises prescribed to increase strength and flexibility of the ankle were effective in a control group of ten college students, and (2) to test the effects of a plantarflexor stretching and dorsiflexor strengthening program on balance in a group of five elderly subjects. It was hypothesized that all groups would show improved scores on all measurements at the end of a four week exercise regimen.

A group of ten healthy students had their dorsiflexor strength tested with the Microfet™ hand-held dynamometer, and their plantarflexor flexibility measured with a goniometer. They were asked to perform a simple home exercise program for strengthening the ankle dorsiflexors and stretching the ankle plantarflexors. Strengthening was achieved by raising the forefoot against gravity by bending at the ankle. These were performed in a set of fifteen repetitions three times per day. Stretching was achieved through a stretch done in long-sitting and using a belt or towel to pull the forefoot towards the knee through bending at the ankle. This stretch was held for thirty seconds per session, three times per day.

The elderly subjects, those over the age of sixty, were tested according to the Berg balance assessment tool, and using the strength and flexibility measurements as above. All groups performed the exercises for four weeks and were retested at that time.

Although the small subject groups made it impossible to draw concrete conclusions from the results, it was found that the only significant improvements in scores was seen on right-side ankle flexibility in the student group. This research should help to lay the groundwork for future studies on balance and muscle strength and flexibility.

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