Fall with Uncertain Cause

You had a fall today. But the cause of your fall is not certain. Falls can happen due to slipping, tripping, or losing your balance. A fall can also happen from a fainting spell or seizure.

A fall can happen for a simple reason (such as tripping over something). But falls in older adults are often caused by a combination of things:

  • Age-related decline in function with worsening balance, stability, vision, and muscle strength

  • Chronic illness, such as heart arrhythmias, heart valve disease, vascular disease, COPD, diabetes, strokes, or arthritis

  • Shoes that don't give much support and make you likely to slip or slide

  • Anemia or low blood pressure 

  • Effects or side effects of medicines

  • Fluid loss (dehydration) or recent alcohol use

  • Hazards in your home or around you, such as uneven or slippery ground, an unfamiliar place, obstacles, uneven surfaces, or slippery ground

  • Something linked to an activity you were doing, such as rushing to the bathroom

The cause of your fall today is not certain. So it's possible that a fainting spell or seizure was the cause. This means that it could happen again, without warning. If you fall again without a cause, come back to this facility right away for more tests. Or follow up with your healthcare provider as explained below.

It's normal to feel sore and tight in your muscles and back the next day, and not just the muscles you first injured. All the parts of your body are connected. So while at first one area hurts, the next day another may hurt. Also when you injure yourself, it causes inflammation. This makes your muscles tighten up and hurt more. After that, it should slowly improve over the next few days. Tell your provider if you have any more severe pain.

Even without a definite head injury, you can still get a concussion. Concussions and even bleeding can still happen, especially if you had a recent injury. Or if you take blood-thinner medicine. You may also have a mild headache. And you may feel tired and even nauseous or dizzy.

Home care

  • Rest today and resume your normal activities as soon as you feel normal again. It's best to stay with someone. They can check on you for the next 24 hours to see if you fall again.

  • If you were hurt during the fall, follow your healthcare provider's advice on caring for your injury.

  • If you get lightheaded or dizzy, lie down right away. Or sit and lean forward with your head down.

  • For your safety, until you see your healthcare provider:

    • Don't drive a car or operate dangerous equipment

    • Don't take a bath or shower alone

    • Don't swim alone

    A condition causing fainting or seizures must be ruled out before doing these activities.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. Talk with your provider before using these medicines if you:

    • Have chronic liver or kidney disease

    • Ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding

  • Keep your appointments for any further testing that may have been scheduled for you.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If X-rays or a CT scan were done, you will be told if there is a change in the reading, especially if it affects treatment.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these happen:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Confusion

  • Trouble waking up

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Fast or very slow heart rate

  • Seizure

  • Speech or vision problems

  • Arm or leg weakness

  • Trouble walking or talking, loss of balance, numbness or weakness in one side of your body, facial droop

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these happen:

  • Another unexplained fall

  • Dizziness

  • Severe headache

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Blood in vomit, stools (black or red color)

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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