Balance & Gait Disorders
Don’t Let Balance and Gait Disorders Knock You Down – Get Back on Your Feet With Physical Therapy
Do you ever feel unsteady, as if you may fall over without warming? Does your hip, knee, or other joint pain make it difficult to move? Do you ever experience a “spinning” sensation, even when you are standing perfectly still?
If you identify with any of these scenarios, you may be suffering from a balance or gait disorder.
What is balance and gait?
Balance is your ability to maintain a steady position during both static and dynamic activities. This can include standing while talking to your neighbor across your fence or reaching for the last jar of tomato sauce on the back of your cupboard’s top shelf. Gait is another term for walking or ambulation. This not only includes forward walking, but also stepping around people on busy sidewalks, navigating uneven surfaces such as grass or sand, and ambulating while carrying a purse or even walking the dog. Our bodies need to be able to regulate where, and what, it is doing to ensure it can stay steady and limit the risk of falling.
Balance and gait disorders are similar in many ways, but they also have some important differences. The Mayo Clinic refers to balance disorders as anything that causes you to feel as if you are “spinning,” or in danger 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 really are not.
Gait disorders are a bit different. They can cause abnormal movements with the way you walk and run, and these abnormal movements can become 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 seem to worsen with age.
What causes balance and gait disorders?
Balance and gait disorder occur due to a variety of reasons. Chronic injuries that led to muscle weakness, cognitive function, age, neurological disorders, and vestibular dysfunctions can all contribute to both balance and gait instabilities. Some neurological disorders that can contribute to balance or gait instabilities are:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Partial Spinal Cord Injuries
- Guillain-Barré Syndrome
- Cerebral Palsy
- Vestibular dysfunction
Some common vestibular conditions that may result in balance disorders include:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV develops when calcium debris breaks off in the inner ear, causing issues with 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.
- Neurological issues. Some neurological issues include stroke, brain injury, or Parkinson’s disease can through your off balance. Essentially, anything that impacts your neurological system can impact your ability to stay on your feet.
These conditions can impact a variety of functions such as coordination, strength, motor control and proprioception, or the ability to tell where your body is in space. As you can imagine, these deficits can increase the risk of falls and subsequent injury.
How does physical therapy help balance and gait disorders?
At your initial appointment, one of our dedicated physical therapists will conduct a comprehensive physical evaluation. During this evaluation, you will be taken through a functional movement assessment that will challenge your balance both statically, in place, and dynamically, with movement. These can be scored and subsequent testing will be performed at follow up visits to ensure therapy is addressing your limitations. An individualized treatment plan will then be developed to address the deficits noted during the evaluation with a functional and goal oriented approach. Some interventions that are applied during gait and balance physical therapy are:
- Transfer training
- Strengthening exercises
- Functional Movements
- Stair navigation
- Gait exercises
- Even surfaces
- Uneven surfaces
- Obstacle navigation
- Head movements
- Balance activities
- Even surfaces
- Visual changes
- Surface changes
Physical therapy interventions have been shown to be effective in improving balance and gait disorders. Our goal is to improve both your function and safety while doing the activities you love.
To learn more about how you can steady your balance and gait issues contact The Fit Institute to schedule an evaluation today! The Fit Institute (TFI) will help you get back on your feet in no time at Chicago, North Center, Lincoln Square, Lincoln Park, Roscoe Village, IL locations.