Posted on Wednesday September 28th, 2016
Maintaining good balance: It’s vital for health
Learn what creates good balance and how to improve it
Maintaining good balance is vital to our health and quality of life. When we begin to lose our 'sense of balance'—even slightly—we lose confidence in our abilities. And this fear of falling and loss of balance can in fact contribute to falls. So what do we mean when we talk about "balance?"
Balance: the big "three" systems
Balance involves a complicated network of 'sensors' and brain control systems in three main areas. Problems in one or more areas can causea lack of balance:
- Vision: Visual cues such as color, fine details, motion, shadows and depth perception all contribute to helping maintain balance.
- Equilibrium/Motion: Sensors in the inner ears (called the'vestibular system') tell the brain about the movements and position of your head. Damage or impairment to one or both of your inner ears (from ear infections, viruses or injury) can cause balance problems.
- Touch/Spatial Awareness: Sensors all over your body tell your brain your position in the environment. Called "proprioception," they tell your brain how your upper and lower body is positioned relative to your head and the ground. They also tell what kind of surface you are touching and how hard you are touching it. All of this contributes to balance.
Balance: How the three systems work together
All three of these systems are coordinated and work together to create our "sense of balance." That's why when problems with balance arise, it's sometime's difficult to determine which of the systems may be impaired.
Common Risk Factors Involved in Poor Balance
- Medications that cause dizziness, hypertension or hypotension
- Foot pain or poor footwear
- Vision issues
- Lower body weakness
- Difficulty walking
- Ear infections
How therapy can help reduce falls and improve balance
In addressing balance problems through therapy, an individualized assessment is first performed to determine the cause of a balance deficit and identifying all risk factors. Several therapists may be involved:
- The physical therapist designs a customized program of exercises and activities emphasizing strength, flexibility and proper gait as well as other methods to improve the balance system.
- The occupational therapists will discuss changes/modifications around the home to help prevent falls from occurring.
- Some therapists are also certified in Vestibular Rehabilitation and can help treat symptoms arising from problems in the inner ear system.
Balance therapy questions? Talk to us at Lutheran Life Villages.
There are signs and symptoms of balance loss. If you have a balance disorder, you may stagger when you try to walk, or teeter or fall when you try to stand up. You might experience other symptoms such as:
- Dizziness or vertigo (a spinning sensation)
- Falling or feeling as if you are going to fall
- Lightheadedness, faintness, or a floating sensation
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or disorientation.
Be aware of these symptoms before you or a loved one suffers a debilitating fall. Be sure to talk to your doctor. If he or she recommends therapy, talk to us at Lutheran Life Villages. We offer state-of-the-art rehabilitation services that can help treat balance disorders, including both short-term inpatient services as well as and outpatient rehabilitation services. Call us at (260) 338-8657 or click here.