Balance and gait (walking) problems are frightening and can often lead to injury or avoiding activities you love. Any prolonged feeling of unsteadiness is worthy of a consultation or appointment.
Symptoms of balance and gait dysfunction include feeling unsteady when walking, tripping more than normal, falling, and feeling fearful of walking over level or uneven surfaces such as grass or snow. Balance and gait dysfunctions can range from someone who has had multiple falls to someone who just does not feel steady when walking.
Most common reasons include changes in sensation in the feet or legs, age, weakness, a pre-existing condition (such as a brain tumor), or a combination of the above. The most common reason for changes in sensation in the feet is peripheral neuropathy typically due to diabetes. Changes in sensation in the legs may be due to a previous or current spine injury. Decreased sensation in the feet means less sensory information is being sent to your brain. This sensory information that usually travels to your brain aids in balance by letting your brain know where you are in space and how to best navigate your environment.
Weakness throughout the legs or feet can create imbalances in strength and can contribute to trips/falls and balance problems. A brain tumor, especially in the cerebellum, can cause balance impairments as well. Physical therapy is a safe and manageable way to improve balance and help you feel safer wherever you go.
Physical therapists at Specialized Physical Therapy will first conduct a comprehensive evaluation to assess your balance and walking limitations. Your therapist may inquire about information that led up to your balance impairment and how it is affecting your life. Then your physical therapist will assess your mobility, posture, strength, walking, standing and moving balance, and balance reactions (i.e. how quickly you respond to a loss of balance).
Treatment and Exercises
Treatment will be tailored to your specific needs and goals after your therapist gathers all of the necessary information from the initial evaluation. Your program will focus on restoring your muscle strength, improving your stability, and normalizing your gait pattern over various surfaces to be as safe as possible in all situations in your home and community.