Balance is the ability to stay upright and steady. A properly functioning balance system allows us to see clearly while moving, determine our direction and speed and make automatic postural adjustments to maintain posture and stability in various conditions and activities. Balance is achieved and maintained by a complex set of sensorimotor control systems.
The human body uses three sensory systems to maintain balance. They are Vestibular (the inner ear system), Somatosensory (nerve endings in the feet, ankles, and other muscles, ligaments and tendons) and Vision (eyes). Each of these sensory systems send information to the brain in the form of nerve impulses from special nerve endings called sensory receptors. During your evaluation, the therapist will evaluate each of these sensory systems to determine which ones may be contributing to your balance problem.
Vestibular: Inner Ear System
For vestibular disorders, such as vertigo and dizziness, we have a Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) Program. We will evaluate and assess your current condition and develop a specialized program designed to alleviate both primary and secondary symptoms of vestibular disorders. The types of treatments we employ include:
- Gaze stabilization
- Videonystagmography (VNG) with Frenzel goggles
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) treatments/repositioning
- Habituation exercises
- Compensatory exercises
- Adaptation exercises
- Visual dependence exercises
- Sensory integration
Somatosensory: Feet, Ankles and Joints
Somatosensory refers to feedback that the brain receives from nerve endings in the muscles and joints. These can tell the brain when the body is off balance, and needs to reposition itself. For a person with somatosensory problems, the nerves have difficulty communicating this information, making it much more likely for them to lose balance and can result in a fall. Some of the factors that cause the somatosensory system to weaken include aging, diabetes, and nerve damage.
The visual system also aids in balance by sending information to the brain about the body’s orientation in relation to its surroundings. Conditions that weaken your vision may also affect your balance. For example, having poor eyesight, cataracts, or a nystagmus can hinder the visual system from picking up the visual cues necessary to help maintain your balance.
Both somatosensory and vision problems are addressed in our Fall Prevention/Balance Program. We will evaluate and assess your current condition and develop an exercise based treatment program. Our program will strengthen your core and lower extremities while improving your gait and balance as well as develop and equip you with exercises easy to do at home, and we may also provide you with home safety training. Your therapy sessions may include:
FallTrak computerized balance training
Gait training exercises
Our Home Safety training includes:
- Patient education
- Home exercises
- Home safety; i.e. lighting, handrails, clutter-free environment
- Assistive devices; i.e. canes, walkers, bracing