Pain Edu: Balance & Gait

Orange County’s Guide to Balance & Gait Dysfunction

What are balance and gait dysfunctions?

Disorders of balance and gait are a leading cause of injuries within the home. The statistics are alarming with falls cited as the leading cause of death due to injury in elderly over the age of 65. There are many reasons why a person’s balance may be impaired or their normal walk may have been altered. Most are of these are related to some underlying medical condition or disease but may also be caused injury. Physical therapists can usually identify root causes and design a treatment plan to restore your gait.

Pain Edu: Balance and Gait Disorders

Are you experiencing problems with your balance or walk? Click on this video to learn more about the causes and treatments of balance and gait difficulties.

The main types of balance and gait difficulties

Ataxia

Ataxia

Ataxia is a movement disorder that affects muscle control and coordination. It is the result of a dysfunction in the central nervous system such as the cerebellum.

Steppage

Steppage Gait

Characterized by foot drop, sufferers must raise the leg (step) higher than normal to avoid dragging the toes. There are different root causes but is directly the result of loss of dorsiflexion.

BBPV

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

The most common cause of vertigo (dizziness or spinning sensation), BPPV is often associated with a minor injury to the head or disorders of the inner ear. While the effects don't usually last long the complications come from an increased risk from falling.

Sensory Impairment

Sensory Impairment

An inability to process ones environment leads to poor choices in movement and posture. Sensory impairment may be due to brain injury, aging, or other medical issues such as cataracts or neuropathy.

Aging

Aging

The most common reason for loss of balance and changes to gait comes for getting older and all the natural degeneration that comes with it. A loss of strength an flexibility comes with aging.

Antaglic Gait

Antaglic Gait

Someone suffering an antaglic gait disorder usually appears to be limping because they are favoring one leg to bear weight due to pain in the the other. This leads to poor posture and compromised balance.

What can you do about your difficulties with balance and gait?

Treatment plans and therapies depend on your specific condition. First you should see your doctor about the underlying cause(s) for changes to your gait or impairments to your ability to balance normally. The following are an effective way to treat them regardless of the cause.

1

Increase Visibility

Make sure rooms are well lit so you can see potential tripping hazards and wear any glasses or hearing devices you may need to help you see and anticipate obstacles.

2

Tidy Up

Removing any tripping hazards is a proactive approach to avoiding falls. Additionally you may think about rearranging your furniture for more accessibility.

3

Stretch

If you don’t have too much pain with movement, stretching and strengthening the leg, hip, and ankle muscles will improve your overall balance and help correct your gait.

4

Physical therapy

Physical therapy consists of heads-on treatment, education on posture and movement, instruction on stretching and strengthening exercises, and a personalized treatment plan.

Stretches and Exercises for Balance and Gait

Following are exercises that you can try to help your balance and gait. Please go to LIFE+for more videos that may help you. Please consult your physician before trying these, and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort.

Single Leg Balance

Hamstring Stretch

Walking Line Drill Exercise

Standing Calf Stretch

Weight Shift Exercises

Tai Chi

What more can you do to help your balance and gait?

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