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Pain 101: Balance & Gait Dysfunctions

WHAT ARE BALANCE & GAIT DYSFUNCTIONS?

Balance and gait dysfunctions affect many individuals at some point in their lives and occur when a disease, trauma, injury or natural aging process result in the inability to maintain the body over the feet. This can lead to decreased stability, loss of balance and falls. Balance and gait dysfunctions commonly result in decreased participation in recreational activities, decreased independence, and increased risk of falls during everyday activities.

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Pain 101: Intro To Balance & Gait Dysfunctions

Are you experiencing pain or problems with your balance and gait? Click on this video to learn more about balance & gait dysfunction and steps you can take to decrease your pain.

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the main types of balance and gait dysfunctions?

Aging

Aging

Aging is a leading cause of balance and gait dysfunctions.  As one ages, strength and flexibility decrease causing impairments to balance and an increased risk of falls.

Impaired Sensory Processes

Impaired Sensory Processes

Impaired sensory processes (visual, vestibular, somatosensory) often lead to balance and gait dysfunctions.  Inability of receptors to gain information about the environment results in lack of postural control.  This may result from injury to the receptors, aging process, or medical conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or peripheral neuropathy.

Musculoskeletal Problems

Musculoskeletal Problems

Musculoskeletal problems contribute to balance and gait dysfunction because a certain level of mobility and strength are required to produce functional movements.  Limitations in range of motion, flexibility, strength, and/or endurance, whether orthopedic or neurological in origin, can contribute to the deficits.

Impaired Neuromuscular Responses

Impaired Neuromuscular Responses

Impaired neuromuscular responses resulting in disrupted signaling of the brain to/from the muscles.   This may result from injury, aging, or medical conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or cerebellar ataxia.

Impaired Cognition

Impaired Cognition

Impaired cognition contributes to balance and gait dysfunctions. Poor attention, decreased judgment, decreased safety awareness, and slow processing causes a decreased ability to anticipate or adapt to a situation.

what can you do about your balance & gait dsyfunctions?

The solution to your balance and gait dysfunction depends on the source and cause of the loss of balance. The first step is to consult with your doctor and discuss their recommendations for treating the present balance and gait dysfunction. Your doctor may recommend restrictions on specific activities, medication and/or physical therapy. You can try the following steps now to help improve your balance and gait dysfunctions.
1

Lighting

It is important to be sure a room is well-lit by turning on lights and opening blinds and curtains to decrease the risk of tripping/falling on a piece of furniture, rug, etc. due to lack of visibility.

2

Clutter

Removing clutter in your home, rearranging furniture, and removing throw rugs decreases the incidence of falls associated with balance and gait dysfunctions.
3

Stretching & Strengthening

Stretching the calf muscles and strengthening the hip and ankle muscles will increase the efficiency of your balance and gait.
4

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy consists of hands-on treatment to loosen muscles and joints for improved range of motion, education on proper posture and movements to improve safety and decrease loss of balance, instructions on stretching and strengthening exercises to restore mobility and strength, and specific balance and gait training.

exercises for balance & gait dsyfunctions

Following are a few exercises you can perform that may help alleviate pain. 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.

What is Physical Therapy?

  • Physical therapists are trained, licensed specialists who help individuals develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and function. Physical therapists specialize in helping individuals restore flexibility and strength in the lower extremities and trunk to allow you to improve your balance, gait mechanics and return to your previous activities. Discuss with your doctor if physical therapy is a good option for your balance and gait dysfunction.

Treatment Approach

  • Medical research has shown physical therapy to be an effective treatment with positive long term outcomes for patients with balance & gait dysfunctions. A successful treatment plan consists of the following: hands-on therapy, an exercise program, and balance & gait training.

Hands-On Therapy

Physical Therapists are trained to apply specialized hands-on techniques that help to retrain postural muscles and restore muscular recruitment during activities.

Exercise Program

A patient-specific exercise program focusing on flexibility, strengthening, narrowing the base of support, and altering ground surfaces will be designed to help you return to your optimal daily activity and quality of life.

Balance & Gait Training

Physical therapists are experts at movement analysis. Your physical therapist will help you increase strength and flexibility to improve your balance and gait mechanics during daily activities.