Balance and Gait Disorders
Steady Your Balance With Physical Therapy Treatments
Do you ever feel unsteady, or not quite as sure-footed as you used to be? Do you find yourself having to reach for walls or furniture to steady yourself? Do you experience pain in your hips, knees, or other joints that have changed the way that you walk? If so, you may be suffering from a balance or gait disorder.
Balance and gait can develop for a variety of reasons and can be physically and mentally disrupting. Underlying musculoskeletal and neurological disorders can cause or aggravate a balance or gait problem. Luckily, physical therapy can significantly reduce your symptoms or correct your condition altogether.
Why did my balance or gait disorder occur?
There can be many causes of balance and gait disorders, as they can develop from many different underlying conditions. For balance disorders, many are related to issues in the vestibular system, which is a delicate collection of fluid-filled chambers and sensory nerves, located in the inner ear, and thousands of nerve receptors in the joints throughout your body. The vestibular system is responsible for your sense of position, also known as “proprioception.”
Some common vestibular conditions resulting in balance disorders include:
Injury or ailment. Even if your brain and nervous system are working in harmony with one another, a sudden injury, disease, or other ailment causing muscle weakness can interfere with your balance and make it difficult to keep yourself upright.
Neurological issues. This may include Parkinson’s disease, brain injury, or stroke. Anything that affects your neurological system can also impact your balance.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This occurs when calcium carbonate crystals break off in the otolith of the inner ear and move into the semicircular canals, causing vertigo and issues with balance.
What’s the difference between balance and gait disorders?
Balance and gait disorders belong to a family of functional problems that interfere with your positional awareness, your normal means of walking or running, and your ability to keep yourself upright.
Balance and gait disorders are closely related, but they do have some distinct differences. Balance disorders are both physical and mental, as your brain may think you are moving, even when you are not. Changes to your joint strength, mobility, and ability to sense where your joints are in space (proprioception), all have physical consequences on your balance.
Gait disorders can cause abnormal movements to the way you walk and run, and these can become exaggerated with age. According to Move Forward Physical Therapy, gait disorders account for 17 percent of senior falls.
How can I find relief for my balance or gait disorder?
When it comes to improving your balance and ability to walk, physical therapy is the best possible option. Our specialized physical therapists in Pukalani will conduct a comprehensive physical evaluation to examine your balance, gait, stance, medical history, and symptoms. Then a personalized treatment plan will be created for your specific needs. Your treatment plan may include:
Stretches. Stretching will help improve your flexibility and your range of motion. This will give you more control and quicker reactions with your movements, also reducing your risk of injury. It will also keep your muscles from becoming too tight and stiff.
Strengthening exercises. Your evaluation will help determine what problem areas in your body may need help. Our physical therapist will provide you with strengthening exercises that will build up your muscles, thus making it much easier for you to move around and reduce your risk of injury.
Vestibular rehabilitation. This physical therapy treatment works to improve your vision, nerves, muscles, and the vestibular system as a whole, in order to maintain a steady balance. If you are suffering from BPPV, our physical therapists will be able to accurately diagnose this with the use of VNG goggles and provide you with specific exercises that will move the calcium carbonate crystals to the correct parts of your ear, correcting your vertigo.
Gait retraining exercises. Sometimes, abnormalities in gait can be corrected through a “retraining” where you learn proper techniques.
If you are suffering from a balance or gait disorder, contact us today to request an appointment with one of our dedicated physical therapists. We’ll help you feel steady on your feet in no time!