Balance disorders occur when the bodily systems that provide our sense of balance (the visual system, the vestibular system, sense of proprioception, and brain) do not function properly. These disorders cause a patient to feel unsteady, spinning, floating, or a sensation of movement when the body is actually still. In older individuals, balance disorders can often result in falls. One out of three adults over the age of 65 experience a fall in the United States each year. Physical Therapy can help restore a sense of balance, and improve muscle strength and function.

Causes

A balance disorder can be caused by several different factors, and in many cases there is no obvious cause for the problem. Some of the common known causes of balance disorders include:

  • Viral or bacterial infections in the ear
  • A head injury
  • Blood circulation disorders that affect the inner ear or brain
  • Aging
  • Taking some medications
  • Circulatory system disorders, like low blood pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Eye muscle imbalances

Symptoms

  • Feeling dizzy or experiencing vertigo
  • A sensation like falling or feeling like you are falling
  • Lightheadedness
  • Problems reading
  • Difficulty seeing clearly
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling like the room is spinning
  • Frequent falls

Physical Therapy Interventions

Physical Therapists are professionals, educated and trained to administer interventions. As defined by The Guide to Physical Therapist Practice, interventions are the skilled and purposeful use of physical therapy methods and techniques to produce changes consistent with the diagnosis, prognosis and the patient or client’s goals.

Physical therapy for balance disorders often includes

  • Repositioning maneuvers
  • Balance and proprioceptive training on even and uneven surfaces
  • Joint stretching and flexibility exercises
  • Strengthening to both lower extremities with a focus on total leg strength (TLS) to improve the ability to move through transitional movements (floor to standing, sitting to standing, stair climbing).

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