by Wayne Foley, MPT and Dr. Dominique Bagby, PT, DPT – Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy (Gold Canyon location)

As we age, our balance will decline, and without maintaining a functional level of strength, flexibility, and balance, you can become prone to an increased risk of falls. Every year more than one in three people age 65 years or older fall, and the risk increases with age. A simple fall can cause a severe fracture of the hip, pelvis, spine, arm, hand, or ankle, leading to hospital stays, disability, and loss of independence.

Many issues can cause balance deficits. Some include feeling lightheaded due to medications, blood pressure issues, and other problems within the inner ear or the brain. The presence of dizziness constitutes the significant predictor of falls in the elderly, which are the leading cause of injury and accidental death after the age of 65 years.

The most common cause of dizziness is a condition called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BPPV.

How is BPPV Diagnosed?

In this video, Wayne Foley, MPT and Dr. Dominique Bagby, PT, DPT from our Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy (Gold Canyon location) show us how they test and treat Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV).

Balance Physical Therapy, A Hands-On Customized Approach to Addressing Balance

Physical therapists can offer numerous options for treating balance problems based on each person’s needs. There are several significant components your body uses that assist with your balance.

Vision

Your vision helps your brain to organize where it is in space. Commonly where there are deficits in other areas that affect balance, individuals can become reliant on vision. It is not unusual to have a patient who can stand perfectly still on a single leg with their eyes open and quickly become a fall risk after closing their eyes.

 

Proprioception

(perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body)

Close your eyes and move your arm over your head. Knowing where your arm is without seeing it is proprioception. Issues with proprioception can range from decreased sensation, not uncommon in the lower extremities and a common factor with balance disturbances, to a weakness that limits the patient’s ability to stabilize.

Vestibular system

Your vestibular system is responsible for letting your body know when you are accelerating. Patients may present with issues such as turning over in bed, causing uncontrolled spinning, and a sense of vertigo. This can come from several causes, including problems with the sensory organ itself to the nerves that conduct these signals.

Balance is vital for health, wellness, and happiness. There are things that you can do now to prevent a decline in your ability to balance.

Tips to Help Avoid Problems of Balance:

  • Keep moving and avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Begin a regular fitness regimen and make efforts to take the stairs, walk more, or other daily activities that keep you active.
  • Have yearly check-ups for vision and check for medication interactions.
  • Manage any chronic diseases, such as diabetes, which has long term side effects on balance.
  • Report any falls to your primary care physician or physical therapist immediately.

What to Expect When Coming to Foothills Physical Therapy

Balance is one of the fundamentals of a healthy, active body. Having a strong sense of balance and awareness of the elements around you can help you react swiftly and prevent injuries and accidents from happening.

Depending on your presentation, we will create a hands-on plan to address your specific deficits to improve your balance and stability. A Foothills Physical Therapist will run several tests to determine how unstable you are with dynamic movement and what components are the limiting factors. Whether your limitations prevent you from performing a higher-level activity such as dancing or learning to use an assistive device to help balance, we will always have your Full Recovery Focus guiding your treatment plan.

The Foothills provides an affordable, individualized, and professionally supervised program designed to build and maintain a functional level of strength, flexibility, and balance. Our highly trained staff is here to properly evaluate and quickly identify your balance concerns giving you the confidence to get you back to doing the things you love.

Visit the location nearest you to get your balance back!

Did you know that falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly? That 87% of all fractures in the elderly are due to falls?1 If that does not get your attention, consider this: approximately one-third of the elderly population suffers a fall each year. Of these falls, 20% lead to serious injury, such as broken bones or head trauma.2 Further alarming, 25% of all hospital admissions are due to falls, and 40% of all nursing home admissions are due to falls. Unfortunately, 40% of all those admitted do not return to independent living, and 25% die within a year. 1

My name is Wayne Foley. I am a physical therapist in Gold Canyon and I treat an older population. I face these realities every day, and I educate many patients about balance and safety. Statistics show that getting help after an immobilizing fall can increase a patient’s chance of survival by 80% and increase the likelihood of returning to independent living.

There are many reasons that people fall, and some are simply accidents that cannot be avoided. However, the majority of falls can be linked to gait or balance disorders, dizziness or vertigo, drop attacks, or other conditions. Risk factors include:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Difficulty walking or balancing
  • Medications such as tranquilizers, sedatives, and antidepressants (including some sold over the counter)
  • Visual problems
  • Foot pain
  • Poor sensation in feet (peripheral neuralgia)
  • Poor footwear
  • Hazards in the home such as throw rugs, broken/loose/uneven steps, no handrails, or lack of light.

Most falls are due to a combination of these risk factors.

In addition, the risk of falling increases in people with heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, low blood pressure, COPD, diabetes, arthritis, visual problems, mental confusion, or those who have had a stroke. Falls are a serious concern that need to be addressed. They account for $34 billion annually in medical expenses. Hospital costs make up about two-thirds of this.

If you have already experienced a fall, feel unsteady, or fear falls in general, you are at a higher risk for falls. There are several things you should do immediately to help yourself and lower your risk. You should review your medications with your doctor. Have your vision checked on a regular basis; at least annually. Make your home safer by fixing loose stairs or tiles, adding handrails to stairs and grab bars in the bathrooms. You should remove tripping hazards such as clutter and throw rugs. Finally, start a daily exercise program.

After a fall, many individuals feel they need to protect themselves from further falls or injuries by limiting their activity. This can actually increase fall risk even more, as a sedentary life causes decreased strength and endurance to activity. By increasing activity in a proper manner, increased strength, return of confidence in mobility, increased balance and flexibility, and improved endurance will result.

Physical therapy is a great way to address many of these areas. A doctor may decide to refer you to a therapist to have your strength and balance addressed, or you may decide to seek a therapist on your own. Many insurance plans will allow direct access without a referral from a physician.

Given my background in balance and vestibular training, I would evaluate your condition and determine a plan of care for each individual who comes into the clinic for treatment. Treatment includes safety instruction, compensation techniques, strength and coordination exercises, balance adaptation, and habituation exercises. A home program is also provided to each client, because it is necessary for these exercises to be performed outside the clinic to maximize their effectiveness.

Falls are a very serious matter. Don’t wait! Seek help from your local Foothills Sports Medicine physical therapy clinic today.

 

References:

1 http://www.learnnottofall.com/content/fall-facts/how-often.jsp

2 http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html