In part one of this two-part series I talked about balance problems, what they are and how they can be diagnosed. It is important to also know that once these problems have been properly diagnosed that there are treatment options available. In part two I will talk about how physical therapy can help, and what you will expect from working with a physical therapist.
Can balance problems be Prevented?
To help prevent balance problems I will advise that you do the following:
– Keep moving. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Try to perform a challenging physical activity each day to keep your muscles strong and flexible. Use your body as much as you can to walk, climb stairs, garden, wash dishes by hand, and other things that will simply keep you moving. If you work out or follow a fitness program, keep it up!
– Have yearly check-ups for vision and hearing. Make sure your vision prescription is up-to-date, this is easy to do and is a big help.
– Carefully manage chronic diseases. One of the more common is diabetes, whose long-term side effects can include balance problems. These side effects can be greatly reduced by following the recommended diet and medication prescribed by your doctor.
– Monitor your medications. Make note of any medications that you think may be affecting your sense of balance, and make sure to bring it up with your doctor.
– Report any falls immediately. Doing this will allow your doctor (or physical therapist) to evaluate and address the possible causes.
How can physical therapy help?
Physical therapists offer numerous options for treating balance problems – but as with everything else they are based on each person’s individual needs.
Physical therapists are trained to evaluate multiple systems of the body, including the muscles, joints, inner ear, eye tracking ability, skin sensation, and position awareness in the joints (proprioception). We are experts in prescribing active movement techniques for our patients, as well as physical exercises that improve these systems. Some of the ways we do this are by strengthening and stretching muscles, proprioception exercises, visual tracking, and inner ear retraining.
Basically a physical therapist will help treat your balance problems by identifying what is causing them, and designing an individual treatment program to address your specific needs, including exercises you can do at home.
Seeking help from a physical therapist will…
– Reduce Your Risk of Falling. Your physical therapist will assess whether you are having problems with footwear, as well as any hazards in your home that could increase your risk of falling.
– Reduce Your Fear of Falling. This is one thing that a lot of people who experience balance problems do not consider. By addressing specific problems that are found during your examination, your physical therapist will help you regain confidence in your balance and your ability to perform daily activities. As you build your confidence back up you will be better able to enjoy your day-to-day activities.
– Improve Mobility. Your physical therapist will help you regain the ability to move around with more ease, coordination, and confidence. Your physical therapist will develop an individualized treatment and exercise program to gradually build your strength and movement skills.
– Improve Overall Balance. This is obviously the most important element – since it’s the whole reason you are seeking help in the first place. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises for both static balance (sitting or standing still) and dynamic balance (keeping your balance while moving) so that your balance can gradually improve. Your physical therapist will progressively increase these exercises as your skills improve you will continually improving.
– Improve Your Strength. As I mentioned in (part one) strength is a big part of why people experience balance problems – so it is also important for our patients to increase strength as part of their treatment plan. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to address various muscle weaknesses that you may have, or simply improve your overall muscle strength in general. Strengthening muscles in the trunk, hip, and stomach (ie, “core”) can be especially helpful in improving balance. Various forms of weight training can be performed with exercise bands, which help avoid joint stress.
– Improve Movement. Your physical therapist will choose activities to help you restore normal movement in any of your stiff joints. There are many ways this is accomplished, one of which is “passive” motions that the physical therapist performs for you, and then after a certain amount of progress has been made you will be about to do active exercises that you do yourself.
– Increase Your Activity Levels. Getting help from a physical therapist will allow you to discuss your goals so that you can put a program in place that addresses your individual goals (and needs).
Your physical therapist will also prescribe a home exercise program specific to your needs to prevent future problems or injuries. This program can include strength and flexibility exercises, posture retraining, eye-tracking and vestibular exercises, and balance exercises.
So, if you are suffering from balance problems or think that you need to seek help from a professional do not hesitate to give us a call (201-585-7300), or fill out our contact us form online.