Balance issues affect millions of Americans each day, and they can also contribute to falls, which are the leading cause of hospitalizations in people over the age of 50. That said, balance issues can also affect younger individuals in the wake of a sports injury or an inner ear problem, so we treat all sorts of balance-related issues at our clinic. In today’s blog, we explore how a physical therapist can help you regain your balance and your independence if you’re feeling unsteady on your feet.
What Causes Balance Issues?
A number of different underlying factors and conditions can contribute to balance problems. Some of the most common causes of balance issues in both young and older populations include:
- Joint stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Inner ear problems
- Decreased proprioception
- Circulatory problems causing blood pressure fluctuations
- Certain medications
It’s also worth noting that a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of balance issues. Activity helps to keep our muscles strong and our ligaments loose, and if we’re not working to develop these areas they can become weak, making it harder for them to support our body in an upright position.
Aside from the obvious of feeling unsteady on your feet, other symptoms of balance issues include teetering when standing up, swaying, stumbling when walking, dizziness, lightheadedness and blurred vision.
Treating Balance Issues With Physical Therapy
The goal of physical therapy is to ensure that a person is comfortable with their balance when they are both standing and moving. When you’re standing, this is called static balance, and many people with balance issues tend to be alright when they are in a static position. When they start moving, they are now working with their dynamic balance, and it can be much trickier to stay upright while you move if you have balance problems.
Untreated balance issues can also lead to more balance problems. Movement and muscle strengthening can help to improve your balance, but many people shy away from movement if they don’t trust their balance. This can lead to worsening balance as they intentionally become less mobile. That’s also why physical therapy can be so helpful in addressing balance issues because it forces you to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility in joints that help to keep you stable.
If you’re noticing that you’re dealing with some balance issues, reach out to a physical therapist. They’ll begin by conducting a physical assessment to determine what underlying factors are contributing to your unsteadiness. They’ll also ask you about your symptoms and if any specific actions cause problems to develop or alleviate.
From there, they’ll get to work developing an individualized treatment plan to target the underlying threats to your balance. For example, a patient experiencing balance issues due to muscle weakness will undergo a different PT treatment than someone experiencing problems caused by an inner ear issue. Some common PT-guided treatments to correct balance issues include:
- Muscle strengthening
- Joint stabilization exercises
- Range of motion exercises
- Head and ear manipulation exercises
- Controlled exercise to improve circulation
- Posture correction
- Visual tracking exercises
- Patient education
- General activity increases and discussions about activity avoidance
Don’t let balance problems keep you from pursuing the activities you love. Instead, connect with a physical therapist and let us get to the bottom of your balance issues and develop an individualized treatment plan to help keep you steady on your feet. For more information, or for help with a different physical issue, give our team a call today at (612) 339-2041.