At what age does balance start to decline? If asked, most people will answer between 70 and 80 years old. The correct answer, believe it or not, is 40 to 50 years old! Did you know that 1 in 3 people over 65 will fall this year?
While these statistics are concerning, there are simple and effective ways to improve your balance and stay safe. Balance depends on 3 major body systems to give the brain feedback and information. If one system is lacking or “out of balance,” the other systems are overstressed and unable to compensate quickly and safely. Your balance relies on your visual system (eyes), vestibular system (inner ear), and your proprioceptive system (joints, muscles, and nervous system). To keep you safe and stable, the brain receives sensory information from each system and coordinates movements, steps, and balance reactions.
The good news is there are clinically proven ways to prevent most falls and we can help! A collaborative effort between your doctor and your physical therapist can make a difference.
Physical therapy starts with a thorough evaluation of your health and fall risk factors. We will then set up a personalized prevention program to address the findings we identify during your initial visit. Treatment may include:
- Strength Testing and Exercises
- Flexibility Testing and Exercises
- Walking (gait) patterns
- Your Health History
- Blood Pressure
- Footwear Recommendations
- Balance Training
- Visual Exercises
- Functional Exercises
- Weight-bearing Exercises
- Sleep Hygiene
- Risk Reduction/Modification Education
- At Home Personalized Program
What is a Balance Disorder?
A balance disorder is a condition that makes you feel unsteady or dizzy. If you are standing, sitting, or lying down, you might feel as if you are moving, spinning, or floating. If you are walking, you might suddenly feel as if you are tipping over.
What are the symptoms of a balance disorder?
If you have a balance issue, you may stagger when you try to walk; or teeter and/or fall when you try to stand up. You might experience other symptoms such as:
- Dizziness or vertigo (a spinning sensation)
- Falling or feeling as if you are going to fall
- Lightheadedness, faintness, or a floating sensation
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or disorientation
Other symptoms might include nausea and vomiting, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and fear, anxiety, or panic.
Symptoms may come and go over short time periods or last for a long time and can lead to fatigue and depression.
What causes balance disorders?
There are many causes of balance problems, such as medications, ear infections, a head injury, or anything else that affects the inner ear or brain. Low blood pressure can lead to dizziness when you stand up too quickly. Problems that affect the skeletal or visual systems, such as arthritis or eye muscle imbalance, can also cause balance disorders. Your risk of having balance problems increases as you get older.
Unfortunately, many balance disorders start suddenly and with no obvious cause.
How Our Physical Therapists Can Help
As experts in the evaluation and treatment of movement, muscle, joint, and nervous system disorders, our physical therapists at Premier Physical Therapy of the Upstate can prescribe and implement a variety of treatments including:
- Coordination Exercises
- Proprioception Exercises
- Strengthening Exercises
- Stretching and Range of Motion Exercises
- Posture Exercises
- Visual Tracking Training
When should I seek help if I think I have a balance disorder?
To help you decide whether to seek medical help for a dizzy spell, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, talk to one of our physical therapists and your doctor:
- Do I feel unsteady?
- Do I feel as if the room is spinning around me?
- Do I feel as if I’m moving when I know I’m sitting or standing still?
- Do I lose my balance and fall?
- Do I feel as if I’m falling?
- Do I feel lightheaded or as if I might faint?
- Do I have blurred vision?
- Do I ever feel disoriented and/or losing my sense of time or location?
Three Additional and Important Treatment Options
Reduce Fall Risk. Your physical therapist will assess problem footwear and possible hazards in your home that increase your risk of balance problems or falling. Household hazards include loose rugs, poor lighting, unrestrained pets, or other possible obstacles.
Reduce Fear of Falling. By addressing specific problems that are found during the examination, your physical therapist will help you regain confidence in your balance and your ability to move freely and perform daily activities. As you build confidence in your balance and physical ability, you will be better able to enjoy your normal daily activities.
Care Collaboration. Working in collaboration with your medical doctor, allows you to get two expert opinions and assessments of your condition. Together, we can better address your balance disorders and decrease your fear of falling and fall risks.
Everyone is different so treatment programs will vary. The best thing you can do is contact our office and schedule an initial evaluation for balance treatment and our fall prevention program.