Background Falls are an increasingly important and costly public health problem. Vision is key to postural stability as we age and this puts adults with visual impairments at greater risk of falls. Physical interventions improve balance in the general population and in older adults with visual impairments in residential care. They also prevent falls in the general community but to date have not been shown effective in community-dwelling adults with visual impairments.
Objective To investigate, with a randomised controlled trial, whether the Alexander Technique (AT) can improve balance and mobility in the community-dwelling population with visual impairments and thus reduce the risk of falls. The AT is a form of physical re-education that has recently received attention for its possible value in rehabilitation.
Method and design One hundred and twenty people with visual impairments over 50 years of age will be recruited from Guide Dogs New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory (NSW/ACT). Participants will be independently mobile and cognitively able to take part in the programme. After baseline assessment participants will be randomly assigned to two groups. The control group will receive usual care from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, and the intervention group will receive 12 weekly home-based lessons in the AT in addition to usual care. The primary outcome measures will be physical measures from the short physical performance battery at 3 months. Secondary outcome measures will be balance, mobility, social participation and emotional well-being at 3 and 12 months.
Trial registration number: The protocol is registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12610000634077).