Get the balance right!
Have you had a significant fall? Do you have bouts of dizziness? Are you extra careful on stairs or slippery surfaces? Between 20% and 30% of seniors fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of injury related hospitalization among seniors in Canada. Many seniors develop a significant fear of falling after experiencing a fall, or even without having fallen. This fear of falling can result in loss of self-confidence, avoidance of previously enjoyed activities and a decreased quality of life.
Problems with balance and walking are strongly associated with developing a fear of falling. Balance is your body’s ability to stay upright. Your sense of balance is related to a complex set of systems that provide sensory information to your brain. Input from your vision (sight), proprioceptive system (sense of relative position of body parts in space), and the vestibular system (inner ear) are crucial to maintaining balance. The vestibular system in the inner ear detects movements of your head and provides information about where your head is in space. All this sensory information is processed by your brain, which then sends messages back to your body to adjust your position and maintain your balance.
Injury, disease, or the aging process can affect one or more of these senses, leading to impaired balance and an increased risk of falling. For example, vision changes, such as the development of cataracts or macular degeneration, might cause you to have difficulty seeing surface changes as you walk. Your proprioception can be affected if you have stiff or arthritic joints in your legs or feet, or perhaps numbness in your feet due to Diabetes. Vestibular disturbances such as inner ear infections, Meniere’s disease or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) can cause bouts of spinning sensations and imbalance. Changes in your brain’s ability to process the sensory information from your body can occur if you have suffered a stroke or concussion, resulting in poor balance and an increased risk of falling.
Physiotherapy can help you to improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling by maximizing the function and input of these body systems. A physiotherapist conducts a detailed examination of your balance issues, including strength, sensation, ability to balance in various positions (e.g. on one leg or with eyes closed), and the function of your vestibular system. This assessment allows a physiotherapist to prescribe an individualized program of education, fall reduction strategies, treatment techniques and specific exercises that will improve your sense of balance, stability and confidence. At Best Health Physiotherapy, our physiotherapists have specific training and experience in treating Vertigo and working with balance difficulties. Balance challenges do not have to limit your lifestyle. Physiotherapy can help.