If You’re Dealing With Balance Issues,
Seeing A Physical Therapist Is Your Best Path Forward
As our bodies age, they go through a number of physical and mental changes that usually tend to make life more difficult. One of the more common issues that comes with older age is impaired balance, which can turn otherwise-normal everyday tasks like walking up the stairs into a major challenge. Fortunately for you, physical therapists are experts at identifying and treating any balance disorders that you might have.
A balance disorder or problem exists when an individual has difficulty keeping a stable and upright position when standing, walking or sitting. Older adults are at a much higher risk for having balance disorders than any other age group, as approximately 75% of Americans 70 years and older have “abnormal balance.” This means that one or more aspects of the person’s balance that is in some way misaligned and can cause issues.
Some of the most common factors that influence balance are muscle weakness, joint stiffness, inner ear problems, side effects of certain medications, keeping a sedentary lifestyle (staying seated frequently), or certain medical complications like stroke, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, arthritis and cognitive diseases. In order for a balance problem to occur, there must be a problem with the person’s vision, the inner ear, the muscular system or proprioception (knowing the position of one’s body), or some combination of these systems.
When balance issues occur, it feels as if the world around these patients is moving when it’s really not. As you can expect, problems with balance can prevent individuals from getting around and performing daily activities, which can lead additional health-related problems in the future. This is where physical therapists come in, as they can address any balance impairments through what’s called vestibular therapy using these strategies:
- Mobility exercises
- Gaze-stabilization exercises
- Balance retraining exercises
- Strength training
- Flexibility exercises
- Fall-prevention education
The benefits of vestibular therapy for various conditions have been identified in several studies, and the results of one recent paper showed how it can help improve balance in patients who have suffered a stroke:
This study indicated that vestibular therapy might improve post-stroke patients’ vestibulo-ocular reflex (a measure of balance). Moreover, patients might show improved gait performance at least up to 3 weeks after the vestibular intervention by the sensory reweight to coordinate vestibular input
A balance issue may be a bothersome nuisance to your everyday life, but help is on the way, and it comes in the form of vestibular therapy from a physical therapist. Contact your local physical therapy clinic to learn more or schedule an appointment.