Physical Therapy Can Improve Balance
If you have fallen, then you may understand how scary this can be. A fall can lead to injury, and it may have a significant impact on how you move. Physical therapy may be a helpful modality of care to pursue if you have fallen, and your PT may also be able to help you prevent falls.
Where Does Balance Come From?
Three systems in our body help keep you upright against the force of gravity. Our three balance systems are:
The visual system. Your eyes give you information about where you are in your environment and what is happening around you.
The vestibular system. The vestibular system is a small organ in your inner ear that gives your brain information about the position of your head. Then, nerves work with this system to coordinate proper eye movements. Impairments to your vestibular system may lead to dizziness, loss of balance, and falls.
The proprioception system. Your proprioceptive system is a collection of nerves in your muscles and joints that tell your brain where your body is and how it is moving. These nerves constantly tell your brain what surface you are standing upon, how your muscles are moving, and can help coordinate futures movements. Impairments to the proprioceptive system may lead to falling.
When these three systems are functioning properly, you can see what's around you, feel where you are in your environment, and you can make adjustments in your body movements and positions to prevent falling. If one or more of these systems is impaired, it may lead to increased risk of falling.
Stats About Falling
If you are an older person, there are some sobering statistics about falling that you should be aware of. These include:
One in four Americans over the age of 65 will fall down each year.
One in three Americans over the age of 75 fall each year.
Falls are the seconds leading cause of accidental death in persons over age 65.
If you are over age 75, one in four falls leads to permanent nursing home placement and care.
Bottom line: falls are dangerous, may lead to injury, and can significantly impact your quality of life.
PT for Balance and Falls Prevention
If you have fallen, or if you are concerned about falling and wish to improve your balance, it is a good idea to visit your local physical therapist. Your PT can assess your current condition and prescribe exercises to help improve balance and reduce the risk of falling.
Physical therapy for balance may include various components. These include:
Exercises to improve posture (poor posture can allow your center of gravity to move forward, leading to falling)
Neck and eye control exercises
Lower extremity exercises
Balance and proprioception exercises
Physical therapy for balance should be specialized to meet your specific needs. Working closely with one of the PT's at Capital Region Physical Therapy in a one-on-one setting may be a good start for your balance program.
What Else Can You Do?
A sound falls prevention plan includes making changes to your environment. Some things you can do around the house to reduce the risk of falling may include:
Ensure adequate exterior and interior lighting is present.
Make sure your stairs have a sturdy hand rail.
Install grab bars in your shower or bath and near your commode.
Ensure throw rugs are stable (or eliminate throw rugs altogether.)
Keep clutter to a minimum
Making small changes around your home may help improve safety and decrease your risk of falling down. Speaking with your physician or physical therapist about your home environment and the changes your can make is a good idea.
Falling can be a scary thing and may have serious consequences. Many people are surprised that you can do things to improve your balance and mobility and decrease your risk of falls. Working one-on-one with a physical therapist at Capital Region Physical Therapy may be a helpful way to maintain and improve your balance and mobility and prevent falling. Give us a call at (518) 439-5006 to see if we can help you move better and feel more confident with your balance and mobility.