VESTIBULAR & BALANCE
Balance and gait disorders can have a seriously negative impact on your life. Unfortunately, sometimes these disorders can go undiagnosed because you do not realize where the problem lies. You may just notice that you feel uncomfortable during your day-to-day activities, have issues with your balance or struggle with pain while walking. When you are feeling emotional or physical distress related to movement, often the best thing you can do is meet with a physical therapist
BALANCE AND GAIT DISORDERS - WHAT ARE THEY?
A balance disorder is one that causes you to struggle with your balance. Balancing and holding yourself steady requires many different parts of your body, including your muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, inner ear and cognitive function. Issues with any one of these or with multiple parts can lead to struggles with balancing.
A gait disorder is one that negatively impacts the way you walk and run. Your gait can be affected by most of the same body parts that affect your balance. An injury to one body part can cause you to overcompensate in other areas and lead to multiple injuries. A good example of this is when you injure your knee, which leads you to lean more heavily on your other leg. The extra pressure and wear and tear can lead to injuries in your hip, knee and ankle, among other things.
WHAT CAUSES BALANCE AND GAIT DISORDERS?
There are so many things that can lead to balance and gait disorders that it can be difficult to track down the problem for anyone but a professional. A physical therapist is best equipped to examine your movement and determine what is causing your balance and/or gait to operate incorrectly.
Some things that may affect balance and/or gait include surgery, stroke, heart attack, illness and other injuries.
WHAT DOES PHYSICAL THERAPY DO TO TREAT BALANCE AND GAIT DISORDERS?
When you come to see a physical therapist, your visit begins with a comprehensive physical exam to determine what your problems are and what is causing them. Physical therapists are experts in the human body and in movement in particular. They know how to detect problems that may not be obvious at first and they are trained to identify the source of these problems. They can not only see when you have a balance and/or gait disorder, they can also do the detective work necessary to find what is causing it.
There are multiple exercises and tools available to physical therapists to treat balance and gait disorders. If the disorder is an issue of weak muscles, the solution could be to strengthen those muscles through targeted exercises. Your physical therapist will guide you through these exercises and may give you exercises to do on your own at home.
Your disorder may be caused by a lack of flexibility as well. People can lose flexibility as they age or stay inactive, but they can also lose flexibility following surgery. If flexibility is an issue, your physical therapist can teach you stretches that will lessen the tension in your body and improve your range of motion.
Sometimes physical therapists will use tools to assist in your recovery as well. These may include things like custom orthotics to put in your footwear. The orthotics will correct your stance and your gait. Many patients are surprised at how drastic the effect of orthotics can be on the way their bodies feel. Just changing the way you carry your weight on your feet can cause a chain reaction in your overall posture and the way you walk and move.
HELP FOR BALANCE AND GAIT ISSUES
Your hard work with a physical therapist could yield significant benefits for you over the long-term. For instance, sometimes physical therapy can eliminate the need for a cane or walker