Unfortunately, each year, 3 million older Americans suffer from falls, with 20 percent of these falls causing severe injuries and sometimes even death. Often, the cause is poor balance. It seems we hear a lot about strength, range of motion, flexibility, but what about balance? Even if you don’t think you have balance issues, you should still learn some basic balance exercises to prevent falls.
Here’s what you need to know about balance, along with how a physical therapist in NEPA can be a huge factor in improving your balance.
What is Balance?
First, let’s define what we mean by balance. Put simply, balance, which is also known as equilibrioception, is a person’s ability to keep their line of gravity within what’s known as their Base of Support, or BOS. Another way to describe balance is the ability to maintain equilibrium. Balance is what gives you a clear view when you’re moving. When you have good balance, you’re able to safely walk down a driveway during winter or play with your grandkids in a yard.
Variables Affecting Balance
Falls are the result of people losing their balance and failing to control their posture. When the external information that you receive from your external surroundings is compromised (sensory input), your balance is affected.
There are three main sensory input kinds: vision input, vestibular input, and proprioceptive input.
Visual changes can result in balance problems and falls. Older Americans stand a greater risk of falls from poor vision. When you have good balance, you should be able to close your eyes when showering and shampooing your hair.
Proprioceptive input is joint position as related to standing surfaces. Proprioceptive injuries or disorders can lead to several symptoms, with balance problems being one of them. Besides frequent falls when walking, another example is having difficulty when trying to stand on one foot.
Vestibular Input (Head Positioning)
Vertigo and dizziness are common signs of a vestibular balance problem. Although people of all ages can experience these issues, they mostly occur in older adults. The network of canals inside your ear is known as semicircular canals, which are filled with fluid. When you move, the position of the fluid changes. This results in a sensor transmitting information to your brain, which affects your balance.
Considerations and Warnings
- It takes the vestibular, vision, and proprioceptive systems working together to keep things level. But it is the visual input that provides most of the necessary information.
- Consider that poor balance can make it hard or impossible to adapt to changes in the environment, such as walking onto softer ground.
- Consider the consequences of falling. Some high-risk demographics include diabetes, neuropathy, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, fractures, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and a total hip or knee replacement.
- Realize that Covid-19 can cause extreme weakness and affect balance. That’s why it’s even more critical that people who’ve had this illness see a physical therapist to learn balance exercises.
What Cawley PT Can Do for Balance Problems
Physical therapists use exercises designed for strengthening the muscles for keeping you upright, including your core and legs. These exercises improve your stability so that you can prevent falls.
Static and Dynamic Balance Exercises
Static balance pertains to controlling your body when stationary, while dynamic balance is body control while the body is in motion. For example, a static balance exercise is learning how to stand on one leg for about 20 seconds.
After learning how to stand on one leg, physical therapists introduce movements for improving your balance, such as squatting down while you hold onto a desk or counter. Each time you do these exercises, the amount of support is reduced until you can do them without any extra support. Consider that most falls occur while in motion instead of when standing stationary.
Therapists also may recommend using balance aids, such as a cane, and other ways to reduce the likelihood of falling at home. Furthermore, they educate clients on making their homes less risky, such as keeping obstacles that could cause you to trip off your floors.
Instructions on Safety in the Community
Your physical therapy will give you tips for staying safe when outdoors. Here are a few pieces of advice they may give on staying safe when you’re away from home:
- Avoid going to areas where there’s no one there to help you.
- Always take your phone with you for emergencies.
- Don’t work your way through a crowd, but instead, let the crowd scatter before you go to your vehicle.
- When crossing the street, try not to cross through all the other pedestrians. Instead, choose a focal point and focus on it as you walk to the other side of the street.
- Use a cane or walking stick when walking on grass or uneven pavement.
Start Balance Physical Therapy in NEPA Today
Balance and coordination problems can force you to give up doing the activities you enjoy and leave you feeling unsafe doing everyday tasks. No one should lower their quality of life for balance issues, especially when physical therapy can help. At Cawley Physical Therapy, our balance physical therapy in NEPA can help improve your stability to keep you safe and active.
Contact Cawley Physical Therapy today to see if physical therapy can help relieve your balance issues.