Balance difficulties can affect individuals of all ages. Younger children can be affected with gaze stabilization impairments which can cause blurred vision and make activities such as reading or walking through large crowds difficult. Children, teenagers, and adults can suffer injuries from motor vehicle or work accidents, and/or sporting and outdoor activities which can lead to mild head injuries, often labeled as concussion, that if not addressed appropriately can lead to significant balance dysfunction, disequilibrium, and dizziness. Typically, but not necessarily, older individuals can have several problems which can affect balance and overall function. Blood pressure irregularities, visual impairments, neuropathy, stroke and central nervous system dysfunction, and peripheral nervous system impairments can all lead to difficulty with balance. People of all ages can be affected by the number one cause of vestibular (inner ear) disturbance, which is Benign Peroxismal Positional Vertigo (BBPV). This problem can be nauseating and can range from a mild disturbance to totally debilitating. It occurs when a salt crystal inside of structures of the inner ear disturbs normal fluid flow leading to a sensation of movement when you are holding still.
Prevention of a balance problem can be somewhat difficult to accomplish. Folks can wear appropriate safety equipment and use proper technique in sports, but accidents can and do happen leading to concussion and post-concussion symptoms. It is important to undergo routine physical examinations and also undergo preseason concussion screening for athletes and routine standardized physical therapy well-visits (which can be done at Professional Rehab Associates). The screens allow for capturing data points with regard to memory, balance, range of motion and strength, and also the presence of symptoms during exertional activity to then be compared to identical standardized testing following an injury. This produces a comparative measure against a patient’s normal function instead of having to compare against simply age- or sex-based norms. Seat belts should be worn when riding in cars. Dietary guidelines should be followed if you have common risk factors for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, history of migraine as each can cause or contribute to balance problems. Exercise can be crucial in maintaining and enhancing strength and mobility and routine walking can be important to maintain a higher level of overall health. Patients taking prescription medications should ask about and be aware of potential side-effects or medication interactions which can lead to dizziness or other disturbances (ask your prescribing physician and also your pharmacist). Some research shows that there is the potential for electrolyte and salt imbalances within the bloodstream and inner ear to cause balance problems and may contribute to the formation of crystals in the inner ear leading to BPPV. Alcohol use can lead to imbalance, falls, and injury. Prolonged alcohol and drug use can lead to neurologic system damage leading to memory difficulties, poor judgement, tremor, and gait unsteadiness which can lead to injury.
Most balance and dizziness disorders respond better to early detection, diagnosis, and treatment. Falls can be prevented and injury risk rates can be reduced. The Vestibular Disorders Association states that individuals with symptomatic vestibular dysfunction have a 12 fold increase in the odds of falling and credits falls as the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in those aged older than 65. Thus, the earlier a problem can be detected, treated, and optimally corrected or compensated the lower the risk of falls and the lower the rate of injury.
Each of our physical therapists have training in Vestibular Rehabilitation. Contact us for more information regarding balance and dizziness as physical therapy can help provide solutions for improving gait and postural stability and can use exercises to compensate for and even correct the source of the balance or dizziness problem. Exercises to safely challenge balance can improve strength, endurance, and confidence and walking ability. Eye and head movement exercises tailored specific to the patient and diagnosis can help improve vestibular loss symptoms, motion sensitivity, and improve gaze stability. Gradual advancement of exercise intensity and complexity are used to best return an athlete to sport following a concussion. Postural exercises can be beneficial for patients who suffer neck pain associated dizziness. For the most part, exercise is a great treatment for balance and dizziness and Professional Rehab Associates can help meet your individual needs to provide optimal success.