October is National Physical Therapy Month
Balance is the ability to maintain your posture and control your body while you move. Balance problems or falls can occur from muscle weakness, visual problems, medications, inner ear disorders, strokes, joint injuries/damage, head injuries, neurological problems.
Facts about balance problems:
– Falls are the leading cause of injury in the elderly.
– Falls are the reason for 200,000 hip fractures each year.
– Approximately 1/3 of people age 65+ fall each year.
– Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the Emergency room for a fall.
– In 2013, the total cost of fall injuries was $34 billion.
Balance relies on 3 types of information: 1) your eyes, for input of your surroundings. 2) your inner ears, which provide your brain and eyes with information on the position of your head (common inner ear problems include dizziness and sea-sickness feeling). 3) your body’s internal sense of orientation, called proprioception. For example, this sense allows you to close your eyes and still move your foot around and still know which direction it is going. When your sense of balance is in good working order, these 3 systems of balance work together automatically with your musculoskeletal system to keep you moving and prevent falling.
There are various causes of balance deficits. In older adults, poor posture can cause unsteadiness. Many people tend to slouch forward or have forward rounded shoulders, which affects balance. Your base of support is also important, you are less likely to fall if you keep a wider support base between your feet and more upright posture. Decreased strength, flexibility, and endurance are also a concern. You are at increased risk of falls if your muscles are weak or tight or if you get tired easily. This is a legitimate concern for older adults especially and they may restrict their physical activities due to this fear. Unfortunately, lack of exercise only makes it more likely that a fall will occur, because muscles weaken and tighten from inactivity.
Balance self test:
1: Are you inactive?
2: Have you experienced a fall more than once in this past year?
3: Do you have frequent dizziness or feel off balance?
4: Have you had a stroke or other neurological problem that has affected your balance?
5: Do you have a fear of falling when reaching for objects?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be at risk of falling and/or injuring yourself.
Preventing Falls is easier than treating them. Balance is a skill that you can keep throughout your life or even regain with the proper treatment. Physical therapy assists to keep people as safe as possible and at the same time help with maintaining their independence. Physical therapy will use cutting edge equipment and specific objective assessments to identify and treat any balance deficits you may have. Then we would perform specific interventions and exercises to address the impairment in a safe and secure environment.