What is it?
Balance deficits are one of the main conditions physical therapists treat. Our balance helps keep us in a stable posture during walking, standing, and even sitting. Balance is also an important component of higher level activities to help remain coordinated. Balance deficits can mainly affect the elderly, but can affect younger individuals as well.
Information and causes?
Balance deficits are problems that affect our stability and coordination of movement. Our body has 3 balance systems. They are vision, the inner ear (which senses head movements), and our somatosensory system (our muscles and tendons can sense movements). If one or more of these systems is affected, it can cause improper signals to be sent to the brain, resulting in poor balance control. This can affect how we move and how we stay still. Poor balance can be caused by a variety of factors which include, but are not limited to the following:
- Neuropathy (seen with or without diabetes)
- Too much sitting or deconditioning
- Stiff joints
- Inner ear conditions
- Conditions that affect the brain such as a stroke, concussion or, Parkinson’s
- Certain medications
The signs and symptoms?
People with poor balance may experience:
- Sway or teetering when sitting to standing
- Stumbling or tripping often when walking
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Blurred vision
- Falling often or feeling like you are going to fall
- Feeling lightheaded or faint
Many people have good balance in “static” positions such as while sitting and standing. It is during dynamic activities such as walking, multitasking or performing household chores that a person may notice feelings of imbalance.
Poor balance can lead to feelings of fear and a constant sense of caution. This can lead to decreased activity levels which results in deconditioning.
For someone with balance problems, it is best to learn more about the condition itself and management to help gain control of their personal health. Physical therapy is a common and effective treatment of balance.
Physical therapy will initially focus on educating the patient about the balance deficits. Research shows that people who are knowledgeable about their condition have better coping abilities. This education can include learning how the body maintains balance and coordination and how to regain control. Balance therapy through various types of exercises such as aerobics, static and dynamic training, and postural training can help improve overall function, general health and confidence in patients experiencing poor balance. Your physical therapist will design a program that is right for you and your goals.
At your first visit you should expect a physical therapist that is there to get to know you, your current complaints, and your goals. Using this information and the information they gather during their evaluation they will set up an individualized treatment plan that will help you reach your goals and get back to your life faster. Treatments could include exercises to restore strength and motion, and muscular retraining to improve posture and proprioception, spinal activation and stabilization.