Have you noticed that your walking or balance is just a little different than it used to be? Gait is the manner in which a person walks and can tell us a lot about certain strengths, weaknesses, balance impairments, flexibility deficits or other dysfunctions that one should address to prevent falls or other injuries.
Balance is the ability to maintain body equilibrium and is made up of the sensory and motor systems. The sensory systems include visual, vestibular and somatosensory systems which help tell your brain where you are in space and then can help you to plan what you are going to do next via the motor system. For more vestibular information please reference our prior article on Vestibular dysfunction on our blog at http://lafayettept.com/vertigo-and-bppv/) Under normal conditions, the sensory and motor systems control posture and balance.
However, there are changes that can contribute to losses of balance including:
Injuries causing pain, restriction or weakness
Other Disease Processes (including side effects of medications)
Changes in Vestibular System
Decreased Proprioception (Body awareness in space)
All of these changes do not just come with “Normal Aging” and you can take control of some areas to prevent decline. Balance is important not only for fall prevention but to mitigate the fear of falling that comes with resultant inactivity. Improving balance can help maintain independence and reduce costs associated with supervision and care, and most importantly maintain or improve one’s quality of life!
Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities leading to reduced mobilityand loss of physical fitness, which in turn increases their actual risk of falling
So, what is “bad enough” to seek help for ga it, balance, or dizziness?
Anyone who has fallen or has had close calls
Limiting one’s activities due to the fear of falling
Limiting one’s activities due to dizziness, weakness, unsteadiness, etc.
Difficulty with activities of daily living or walking
It has been found that in order to improve balance, prescribed activities must create a “stimulus“, and cause imbalance 30% of the time in order to progress. It must be challenging. Also, practice helps to make perfect as it is believed to take 50 hours of balance training to begin to see your hard work pay off, so stick with it!
Dizziness is a major cause of falls and balance problems and can be caused by several things:
Side effects of medications
Vestibular issues such as BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo) or Vestibular Hypofunction
More often than not, dizziness is not treated seriously in the medical community so you must be your own advocate and seek physicians or therapists to help address this issues promptly.
What can be done to preserve your balance, prevent falls, and lower your risk of injury including fractures?
Stay active & exercise regularly
Check with your doctor on
Osteoporosis Screening & Treatment
Have your eyes checked; consider single vision distance lenses for walking outside
Proper Nutrition (Including Vitamin D & Calcium)
Physical Therapy Intervention if needed
Be your own advocate and reach out for help.
We are here to help. If you feel you need professional help to improve your balance and help to prevent falls please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Written by Lauren Masi, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, and Clinical Services Director
Arranged and Edited by Jill Ramsey, BSBA, Administrative Director
“Vestibular Rehabilitation; A comprehensive clinical approach for positive functional outcomes”, Georgia L. Groomer, North American Seminars, 2012.
“Geriatric Balance and Dizziness Management”, Mike Studer, PT, MHS, NCS, CEEAA, Northwest Rehabilitation Associates, Inc.
Center for Disease Control (CDC), www.cdc.gov
Rose, Debra J., PhD., Joe Buck, Evon Griffith. Fall Proof! A Comprehensive Balance and Mobility Training Program. Rose Debra J., Judy Patterson Wright, PhD, Maggie Schwarzentraub, Kevin Matz. United States of America, 2010.
Disclaimer This article is intended as general health information and is not intended to provide individual specific medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or any other individual. Please consult your doctor or a medical professional before starting or changing a health, fitness, or nutrition program.
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