Balance problems are the leading cause of injury for senior citizens in the United States. This may stem from a number of issues. It could be a specific cause such as issues with your sensory system leading to imbalances.
Perhaps you have a new injury that limits movement and restricts you to unexpected positions. Maybe you have issues from an old injury that has not been addressed and have slowly led to a point where you are constantly catching yourself from falls and may consider or are learning to ambulate with an assistive device.
There are several major components your body uses that assist with your balance. An experienced physical therapist can assess these components before creating a custom, hands-on physical therapy approach.
Your vision helps your brain to organize where it is in space. Commonly, where there are deficits in other areas that affect balance, individuals can become reliant on vision. It is not unusual to have a patient who can stand perfectly still on a single leg with their eyes open but quickly becomes a fall risk when they close their eyes.
Close your eyes and move your arm over your head. Knowing where your arm is without seeing it is proprioception. Issues with proprioception can include decreased sensation, which is not uncommon in the lower extremities and is a common factor with balance disturbances. Another symptom in this area might be weakness that limits the patient’s ability to stabilize.
Your vestibular system is responsible for letting your body know when you are accelerating. Patients may present with issues such as turning over in bed causing an uncontrolled spinning and a sense of vertigo. Symptoms can arise from a variety of causes. These causes may range from issues with the sensory organ itself to the nerves that conduct these signals having issues.
Putting it all together
Multiple factors may be tied together leading to issues with balance. Your physical therapist may test for components individually or as a group. We run several tests to determine how unstable you are with dynamic movement and what components are the limiting factors.
For example, a patient can have issues with stability when reaching outside of their base support but have no limitations when they are on uneven ground.
What to Expect
Depending on your presentation, your physical therapist will work to create a hands-on plan to address your specific deficits to improve your balance and stability. Whether your limitations prevent you from performing a higher-level activity such as dancing or learning to use an assistive device to help with balance, we will be there to help get your move back.