Balance & Gait Disorders
Stopping the Spins: How to Find Relief for Balance and Gait Disorders
Do you ever feel as if you may fall over unexpectedly from your unsteadiness? Does pain in your joints make it difficult to move around? Do you ever feel as if you are spinning, even when you’re standing still? If so, it is possible that you may be living with a balance or gait disorder.
A balance or gait disorder can impact both your physical and mental wellbeing. There are also a large number of reasons why they may occur. Several underlying neurological or musculoskeletal disorders can either cause or aggravate a balance/gait disorder. Fortunately, such disorders can be effectively treated with physical therapy.
By participating in a personalized treatment plan designed by one of our physical therapists, you can significantly reduce your symptoms and may even correct your condition altogether. For more information on how to find relief from your balance or gait disorder, contact Focus Physical Therapy today!
Balance and gait disorders – defined:
Balance and gait disorders can be categorized as functional disorders. They interfere with several aspects of your everyday life, such as your positional awareness, your ability to keep yourself upright, and your overall normal movement functions.
There are some similarities to balance and gait disorders, but there are also some key differences. Balance disorders can be described as anything that causes you to feel unsteady (usually accompanied by a “spinning” sensation.) Balance disorders make you feel as if you are in danger of falling – and may actually put you at risk of falling – even if you are sitting or standing still. Balance disorders affect both physical and mental functionality, since the brain thinks you are moving when you aren’t.
Gait disorders are a little different. They can cause abnormal movements with the way you walk and run, which can become gradually more exaggerated as you get older. In fact, Move Forward Physical Therapy states that gait disorders account for 17 percent of senior falls, as symptoms of a gait disorder seem to worsen with age.
How do balance and gait disorders develop?
As previously mentioned, there are a vast number of reasons why balance and gait disorders may develop. Many balance disorders develop from an issue with the vestibular system, which is a delicate collection of fluid-filled chambers and sensory nerves located in the inner ear. The vestibular system is responsible for maintaining your “proprioception,” or sense of position.
Some common vestibular conditions that can lead to balance disorders include:
- Injury or ailment. Even if your brain and nervous system are working in harmony with one another, a sudden injury, disease, or other ailments resulting in muscle weakness can interfere with your balance and make it difficult to keep yourself upright.
- Neurological issues. Neurological issues can throw you off balance. Some common conditions include brain injuries, stroke, or Parkinson’s disease, to name a few. Essentially, anything that impacts your neurological system can impact your ability to balance yourself.
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV develops when calcium debris breaks off in the inner ear, resulting in issues with your balance.
There is an even larger realm of conditions that can lead to gait disorders. Any condition that impairs your muscle or nerve functions can cause you to walk in an abnormal manner. Because of this, gait disorders can also develop from the symptoms of neurological or neuromuscular issues, much like balance disorders. However, gait problems can also appear as the result of underlying musculoskeletal problems. Common conditions leading to gait disorders include abnormal foot arches, plantar fasciitis, overuse injuries, or uneven muscle support that can make you favor one side of your body more than the other.
A previous lower extremity injury that failed to heal properly can also result in a gait disorder. This incorrectly healed internal scar tissue causes limited range of motion in your feet, knees, and hips, resulting in a gait disorder.
Find relief with physical therapy:
At your initial appointment, one of our dedicated physical therapists will conduct a comprehensive physical evaluation to examine your balance, gait, stance, symptoms, and medical history. After your evaluation, our physical therapist will create a personalized treatment plan for you, based on your specific needs. Treatment plans for balance and gait disorders typically include:
- Gait retraining exercises. In a study cited by the Arthritis Foundation, patients suffering from osteoarthritis-related gait disorders were able to successfully alter their gait through treadmill exercises. Sometimes, abnormalities in gait can be effectively corrected simply through “retraining.” If this is the case, our physical therapist will walk you through proper posture, stance, and walking techniques.
- Vestibular rehabilitation. If you are suffering from BPPV, our physical therapist will provide you with specific exercises that will return the calcium debris to the correct parts of your ear. Vestibular rehabilitation is a balance-and-gait-specific type of rehab that works to improve your nerves, muscles, vision, and vestibular system as a whole, in order to maintain a steady balance.
- Stretches. Targeted stretches will give you more control and quicker reactions with your movements, in addition to reducing your risk of injury. They are an important part of a treatment plan that will help improve your flexibility and your range of motion. They will also help in keeping your muscles from becoming too tight and stiff.
- Strengthening exercises. Your evaluation will help determine any problem areas in your body that may need strengthening. Our physical therapist will provide you with exercises that will build up your muscles, thus making it much easier for you to move around and reduce your risk of injury.
If you are suffering from a balance or gait disorder, contact our physical therapy office at Newhall, Santa Clarita, CA to schedule your initial appointment. At Focus Physical Therapy, we are dedicated to helping you regain your balance and get you steady on your feet!