MS and falling the best way

[This item first appeared as my column on]

Uh oh! My cat, T.J., is under my feet trying to nibble my ankles as I stumble toward the bathroom in the middle of the night. I know what’s about to happen. As I try not to step on T.J.’S tail, it’s already started. I’m going down. It all happens in about three seconds, and how I handle those three seconds will make a big difference in how soon I get up, or if I get up.

I learned how to fall when I took judo lessons as a kid. It’s the first thing you’re taught. Even when you land on a mat, when someone throws you over his shoulder you want to do all you can to try to spread the impact and land on a body part that’s soft, like your side.

Those basic lessons have served me well over the many years that I’ve been tripping over my multiple sclerosis. A recent article in the New York Times confirmed, and added to, the falling techniques that I learned as a kid. Physical therapists, stuntmen, martial arts instructors and paratroopers (all of whom know a good deal about falling) agree on a few things:

  • Protect your head
  • Stay loose and don’t fight the fall
  • Don’t stick your arms out
  • Try to land on your side

Says jiujitsu instructor Paul Schreiner in the Times article: “Accept that you’re falling and go with it, round your body, and don’t stiffen and distribute the energy so you take the fall in the widest area possible.”

The website has put together a well-done series of illustrations about falling properly. Obviously, these are general recommendations. One size doesn’t fit all, but the info should help you grasp the concept.

One trick I’ve learned is that I try to toss my cane away from me if I’m starting to fall. Doing this allows me to avoid falling on the hard metal of the cane. It also frees both of my arms to protect my head and makes it easier to try to fall onto my side.

Says physical therapist Jessica Schwartz, in the Times article, “It’s almost inevitable you are going to fall, so you really should know what to do.”

Do you? Do you have any “tricks” to pass along that might help others?




5 thoughts on “MS and falling the best way

    1. The MS Wire Post author

      I’m certainly no expert. I’m just giving a folks an idea of what’s worked for me over the past 35 years. Hope your falls are all gentle ones. (And make sure that new puppy is out of the way). 🙂



  1. Melissa

    I’ve had my share of falls and I agree with you completely. I always try to land on my side. My first fall was before I was diagnosed, tripped on nothing and landed face first of concrete. Not a great experience, I could have sworn there was a crack or something I tripped on but nothing. I must say falling backwards is tricky though. Any suggestions? I do exercises to try to improve balance but open to more suggestions. Thanks!


    1. The MS Wire Post author

      Hi Melissa,

      My first fall was also pre-diagnosis, and it was backwards while walking backwards. Fortunately, I wound up doing a backwards summersault. I doubt I could do that today. In fact, I slipped on ice a few years ago and landed flat on my back. Luckily, I wasn’t hurt…but it took me a minute to realize that :-).




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