Balance problems are very common, and often make it challenging for people to maintain stable and upright positions when standing, walking, or sitting. Balance problems become more prevalent as we age, with 75% of Americans over 70 with abnormal balance.
What Causes a Balance Problem?
Balance problems can occur due to many reasons. This includes orthopedic issues, such as joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. However, it can also be due to problems with the inner ear, visual problems, medication side effects, or due to leading a sedentary lifestyle.
What Does Bad Balance Look Like?
When someone is experiencing a balance problem, they may find themselves tripping, swaying, stumbling, dizzy, or falling. As a result, balance problems can make people fearful of performing simple everyday activities. Because of this, people often end up losing muscle strength and becoming frail.
How Are Balance Problems Diagnosed?
Speak to your doctor, or Physical Therapist about your balance concerns. In Physical Therapy, your therapist will conduct a thorough evaluation and ask questions to get a sense of what is making you unsteady. Your physical therapist will carry out tests to look at the way you walk and the the strength of your legs. Other tests will look at your coordination, visual tracking, and balance tests to obtain a good sense of your fall risk.
What Can Physical Therapy Do to Help?
A Physical therapy clinic which specializes in balance problems will provide you with individualized treatment options. Through the evaluation of your bodies systems; including the inner ears, eyes, muscles, joints, skin sensation, and position awareness, causes for your imbalance can be determined. Following your evaluation, treatments for your deficits will be addressed using strengthening, stretching, proprioception exercises, visual tracking, and inner ear retraining.
Physical Therapy can help to:
- Reduce your fall risk.
- This includes addressing footwear and hazards in your home, including loose rugs and poor lighting.
- Decrease your fear of falling.
- Through addressing specific situations, physical therapy will help you regain confidence in your balance.
- Improve mobility.
- Physical Therapy will increase your ability to move around with more ease, improve coordination, and confidence.
- Improve balance.
- Performing exercises in sitting, standing and walking will increase your ability to perform everyday activities and increase your independence.
- Increase strength.
- Exercises to address muscle weakness, will increase your muscle strength. Balance can be negatively affected by weakness of muscles in the trunk, hip, and stomach (ie, “core”), however as these muscles get stronger, your balance and stability improves.
- Improve flexibility and posture.
- If tight muscles are noted, physical therapy will teach you how to gently stretch them. Poor posture can also lead to imbalance, and often exercises to improve your ability to maintain proper posture will be assigned.
- Increase activity levels.
- Allowing you to return to an active lifestyle to meet your goals of participating in recreational activities, or simply going for a walk.