What I’ve Learned About Falling After 37 Years with MS

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

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Leaving a restaurant the other evening, I was stepping off an unusually high curb. Right cane down, left cane down, swing the right leg, swing the left leg, and … uh-oh. Down I go.

I’d been asking for it. I’d needed to change the electrodes on the Bioness L300 that I use to assist my MS left foot drop and the unit wasn’t working well. My left toe snagged and there was nowhere to go but down.

Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt. Fortunately, I’ve had years of experience falling, and I do some things automatically to ease myself to the ground.

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I learned how to fall when I took judo lessons as a kid. It’s the first thing you’re taught. When someone throws you over his shoulder and onto the judo mat, you want to do all you can to spread the impact and land on a body part that’s soft, such as your side. Since I began to use a cane I’ve learned to try to toss it 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, rather than on my back.

Some tips from the pros

An article in The New York Times confirms, and adds 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, including what I’ve just suggested:

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

Jiujitsu instructor Paul Schreiner says 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 wikihow.com 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.

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

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

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at: www.themswire.com.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Jumpy avatar


I also was on my high school Judo Team and learning to fall one of my best investments. I had a motorcycle drop out from under me at 70MPH 2 days after getting my license. I flew about 20 feet thru the air did my roll and walked away with the worst being a 2 2 inch diameter road rash on my hip that cut my belt in half and one by my elbow. When I walked in to auto shop the next day My teacher and also Judo Coach asked what happened to me. I answered -- Remember when you told us that we would learn to fall and do it automatically when we fall Ice skating 20 years from now? My test cam early! You were right. It saved my life that's not the only time!
Every one should learn to fall!

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Life lessons, at times, can certainly be a bit odd. :-).

Sure glad you walked away from that wreck.


Rona avatar


I’m glad ufologists out of ir with just bruises and not worse. I’d like to learn softly like u. I has MS, and drop foot, for some reason the ground is attracted to me and wants me closer to it ?. It’s gotten so bad, that I now joke about it... can u tell me ur secret?

Dorothy Kane avatar

Dorothy Kane

Good article, and sometimes my falls are 'elegant'. But generally I am not aware that I'm falling till I hit the ground.

Karen avatar


Thanks for the tips. I fell and fell hard in April. All my weight came down on my knee, jarring right through the hip. Thankfully nothing was damaged, but it was quite painful for a long time. Even though what you say seems so counter-intuitive to me, I will try to follow this the next time I trip over nothing. Thanks!

Cynthia King avatar

Cynthia King

When I fall it's more appropriate to yell 'timber'. I have such spasticity in my back i can't tuck and roll. Gravity is not my friend.

Brad avatar


Good tips. Tai Chi is well-known to improve balance and movement dexterity. We must do everything in our power to mediate the onset and management of this disease. I have found that the eastern internal arts offer time-proven wisdom on how to improve my health and energy in naturally effective ways. I feel we all have the potential to be in charge of our own health, and without the negative side-effects. Some examples of holistic tips and techniques from the eastern arts I have learned: https://abundantpeace_b0cb.gr8.com/

Rebecca avatar


One thing I learned in Judo was to keep rolling when you fall. It disperses the energy of the impact, and makes it much less likely that you will have a serious injury. Even though I have spasticity, I'm somehow able to incorporate a roll into however I fall. So far no broken bones.

Peggy avatar


Good suggestions all...but someone else said I am usually unprepared when a fall happens. NOW THAT have use wheelchair most falls happen with transfers. Spascity also affects any falls ... sigh...

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Peggy,

What can I say except to echo your sigh. And I'll cross my fingers that you can avoid falls so you don't have to try to fall softly.



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