Steady Your Balance and Improve Your Gait with Physical Therapy
Do you ever feel unsteady, or not quite as sure-footed as you use to be? Do you find yourself having to reach for walls or furniture to steady yourself? Do you experience pain in your hips, knees, or other joints that have changed the way that you walk? If so, you may be suffering from a balance or gait disorder.
These disorders can be physically and mentally disrupting, developing for a variety of reasons. Underlying musculoskeletal and neurological disorders can cause or aggravate a balance or gait problem. Luckily, physical therapy can help significantly reduce your symptoms or correct your condition altogether. For more information on how you can steady your balance and gait troubles, contact Washington Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for an appointment today!
Balance and gait disorders: defined
Balance and gait disorders belong to a family of functional problems that interfere with your positional awareness, your normal means of walking or running, and your ability to keep yourself upright.
Balance and gait disorders are closely related, but they do have some distinct differences. Balance disorders are both physical and mental, as your brain may think you are moving, even when you are not. Changes to your joint strength, mobility, and ability to sense where your joints are in space (proprioception), all have physical consequences on your balance.
Gait disorders can cause abnormal movements to the way you walk and run, and these can become exaggerated with age. According to Move Forward Physical Therapy, gait disorders account for 17 percent of senior falls.
How do balance and gait disorders develop?
There can be many causes of balance and gait disorders, as they can develop from many different underlying conditions. For balance disorders, many are related to issues in the vestibular system, which is a delicate collection of fluid-filled chambers and sensory nerves, located in the inner ear, and thousands of nerve receptors in your joints throughout your body. The vestibular system is responsible for your sense of position, also known as “proprioception.”
Some common vestibular conditions resulting in balance disorders include:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This occurs when calcium debris breaks off in the inner ear, causing issues with balance.
- Neurological issues. This may include Parkinson’s disease, brain injury, or stroke. Anything that affects your neurological system can also impact your balance.
- Injury or ailment. Even if your brain and nervous system are working in harmony with one another, a sudden injury, disease, or other ailment causing muscle weakness can interfere with your balance and make it difficult to keep yourself upright.
How will physical therapy help with my balance or gait disorder?
When it comes to improving your balance and ability to walk, physical therapy is the best possible option. Our specialized physical therapists in the Kirkland, WA area, will conduct a comprehensive physical evaluation to examine your balance, gait, stance, medical history, and symptoms, before creating a personalized treatment plan deemed for your specific needs. This treatment plan may include:
- Strengthening exercises. Your evaluation will help determine what problem areas in your body may need help. Your physical therapist will provide you with strengthening exercises that will build up your muscles, thus making it much easier for you to move around and reduce your risk of injury.
- Stretches. Stretching will help improve your flexibility and your range of motion. This will give you more control and quicker reactions with your movements, also reducing your risk of injury. It will also keep your muscles from becoming too tight and stiff.
- Vestibular rehabilitation. This physical therapy treatment works to improve your vision, nerves, muscles, and the vestibular system as a whole, in order to maintain a steady balance. If you are suffering from BPPV, our Kirkland, WA physical therapists will provide you with specific exercises that will move the calcium debris to the correct parts of your ear.
- 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.
If you are suffering from a balance or gait disorder, contact us today at Washington Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated physical therapists. We’ll help you feel steady on your feet in no time!