You Can Retrain Your Balance

As kids, we test our balance by walking on curbs, jumping and spinning. But as we get older, we forget the important role balance plays in helping us walk, get up from a chair, climb steps or bend over without falling.

Our vestibular or inner ear system works with of our senses, muscles and brain to coordinate our body at rest and in motion. But age, illnesses, accidents, certain diseases and medications can affect this intricate system and our ability to balance. Feeling dizzy, lightheaded and nauseous or a sensation that the room is spinning around may signal that you have a balance disorder.

Help for balance disorders

People with balance problems tend to fall more or restrict their physical activities which leads to a more sedentary lifestyle. If you have trouble with balance, make an appointment with your primary care physician or an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) to understand the extent of your balance problem.

Treating balance disorders can be difficult and that’s where Total Rehab Care’s physical therapists step in. With specialized training in balance control, they assess and treat vestibular disorders and neurologic conditions including stroke, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury and concussions. Physical therapists also see orthopedic patients to assess weight bearing functions.

Assessing balance disorders

Physical therapists use Balance Master®, a suite of equipment and tests, to evaluate patients’ postural and gaze stability and identify balance and mobility troubles. How patients respond to events—standing on one foot, climbing steps or transitioning from sit to stand—provides therapists with a baseline of balance data.

Using test results, physical therapists design a training program to target sensory, visual or vestibular problems. “Patients can visually see where they’re at and where they need to be,” says Lisa Yonkers, PT.

Balance retraining

Young or old, you can retrain your sense of balance. “With vestibular patients, the vestibulo-ocular reflex becomes lazy or slow and causes visual problems,” says Kim Weaver, PT. “Exercise speeds treatment along because we’re prompting patients to use their optical reflex.”

And balance retraining can be fun. Computerized games, like solitaire and chess, let patients “play” by shifting their center of gravity to control game pieces. Lisa and Kim say most patients see an improvement in balance after four weeks of rehabilitation.

Medications can help chronic balance problems, but they cannot cure the condition. However, with the help of physical therapists trained in balance problems, you can move from feeling frighten and unsteady to functional and confident.

Call Total Rehab Care at 301-714-4025 to see how physical therapists can work with your physician to restore your balance.