balance and athletic advantage physical therapy

Balance & Gait Disorders

Don’t Let Balance and Gait Disorders Knock You Down – Get Back on Your Feet With Physical Therapy

Do you ever feel unsteady, as if you may fall over without warming? Does your hip, knee, or other joint pain make it difficult to move? Do you ever experience a “spinning” sensation, even when you are standing perfectly still? If you identify with any of these scenarios, you may be suffering from a balance or gait disorder.

Balance and gait disorders can be both physically and mentally debilitating, and there are several reasons why they may occur. A number of underlying neurological or musculoskeletal disorders can either cause or aggravate a balance/gait disorder. However, these disorders can fortunately be treated through physical therapy. PT treatments can help significantly reduce your symptoms and may even correct your condition altogether. To learn more about how you can steady your balance and gait issues, and work toward getting back on your feet, contact Athletic Advantage Physical Therapy to schedule a consultation today!

What are balance and gait disorders?

Balance and gait disorders can be categorized in the same family as functional disorders. They interfere with your ability to keep yourself upright, your normal means of movement, and your positional awareness.

Balance and gait disorders are similar in many ways, but they also have some important differences. The Mayo Clinic refers to balance disorders as anything that causes you to feel as if you are “spinning,” or in danger of falling, even if you are sitting or standing still. Balance disorders affect both physical and mental functionality, since the brain thinks you are moving when you really are not.

Gait disorders are a bit different. They can cause abnormal movements with the way you walk and run, and these abnormal movements can become more exaggerated as you get older. In fact, Move Forward Physical Therapy states that gait disorders account for 17 percent of senior falls, as symptoms seem to worsen with age.

What causes balance and gait disorders?

There are a large number of reasons why balance and gait disorders may develop. Many balance disorders occur as a result of underlying issues in the vestibular system, which is a delicate collection of fluid-filled chambers and sensory nerves located in the inner ear. The vestibular system is responsible for maintaining your sense of position, also known as “proprioception.”

Some common vestibular conditions that may result in balance disorders include:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV develops when calcium debris breaks off in the inner ear, causing issues with balance.
  • Injury or ailment. Even if your brain and nervous system are working in harmony with one another, a sudden injury, disease, or other ailment causing muscle weakness can interfere with your balance and make it difficult to keep yourself upright.
  • Neurological issues. Some neurological issues include stroke, brain injury, or Parkinson’s disease can through your off balance. Essentially, anything that impacts your neurological system can impact your ability to stay on your feet.

Any condition that impairs nerve or muscle function can cause you to walk in an abnormal manner. Therefore, gait disorders can also develop from the symptoms of neurological or neuromuscular issues, much like balance disorders. However, gait problems can also appear as the result of underlying musculoskeletal problems. Common conditions leading to gait disorders include overuse injuries, plantar fasciitis, abnormal foot arches, or uneven muscle support that can make you favor one side of your body more than the other.

If you previously sustained an injury that never healed properly, it could also lead to a gait disorder. This occurs when the internal scar tissue doesn’t heal correctly, causing limitations to the range of motion in your hips, knees, or feet.

How does physical therapy help balance and gait disorders?

At your initial appointment, one of our dedicated physical therapists will conduct a comprehensive physical evaluation to examine your balance, gait, stance, symptoms, and medical history. Afterward, your therapist will design an individualized treatment plan based on your specific needs. Your physical therapist can provide you with the tools you need to relieve the symptoms of your balance or gait disorder. In most cases, Athletic Advantage Physical Therapy can even help you recover completely from your condition. Treatment plans for balance and gait disorders typically include:

  • Vestibular rehabilitation. If you are suffering from BPPV, your physical therapist will provide you with specific exercises that will return the calcium debris to the correct parts of your ear. Vestibular rehabilitation is a balance-and-gait-specific type of rehab that works to improve your nerves, muscles, vision, and vestibular system as a whole, in order to maintain a steady balance.
  • Gait retraining exercises. In a study cited by the Arthritis Foundation, patients suffering from osteoarthritis-related gait disorders were able to successfully alter their gait through treadmill exercises. Sometimes, abnormalities in gait can be effectively corrected simply through “retraining.” If this is the case, your physical therapist will walk you through proper posture, stance, and walking techniques.
  • Strengthening exercises. Your evaluation will help determine any problem areas in your body that may need help. Your physical therapist will provide you with strengthening exercises that will build up your muscles, thus making it much easier for you to move around and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Stretches. Targeted stretches will give you more control and quicker reactions with your movements, in addition to reducing your risk of injury. They are an important part of your treatment plan that will help improve your flexibility and your range of motion. They will also help in keeping your muscles from becoming too tight and stiff.

If you are suffering from a balance or gait disorder, contact our physical therapy office to schedule an appointment. Athletic Advantage Physical Therapy will help you get back on your feet in no time!