Have you experienced a fall? Have you nearly fallen and are afraid that this may happen again? Do you occasionally feel lightheaded? Are you more cautious when using stairs or other steep areas? Do you get nervous driving at night or when it rains? Being in dark or busy places makes you uncomfortable? Every year, 20% to 30% of seniors fall. In Canada, falls are the main reason for hospitalization due to an injury. After falling, or even beforehand, a substantial fear of falling develops in many seniors. This fear of falling can lower one’s quality of life by causing them to stop engaging in formerly enjoyable activities, lose confidence, and other negative effects. Our highly-trained vestibular physiotherapists at Physiomobility have specialized education and expertise in treating dizziness, vertigo and assisting with balance issues.
Symptoms of balance disorders
The symptoms of balance and fall problems in adults may include:
- Dizziness or unsteadiness while walking
- Difficulty with coordination and movements
- Loss of balance and frequent falls
- Fear of falling or avoiding physical activity due to the fear of falling
- Weakness or fatigue in the legs
- Numbness or tingling in the feet and legs
- Sudden drop in blood pressure, especially when standing up
- Changes in gait, such as shuffling or stumbling
- Vertigo or a spinning sensation
- Blurred vision or problems with depth perception
- Anxiety related to dizziness and fear of falling
Causes of balance problems
If you have balance problems, it’s important to seek medical attention and discuss your symptoms with your doctor. In many cases, dizziness can be related to the type of medication you are taking for heart conditions or other health conditions. In the meantime, you can consider the following questions to help you better understand your situation and seek appropriate help:
- How long have you been experiencing balance problems?
- Do you experience dizziness or unsteadiness while standing or walking?
- Have you fallen or nearly fallen in the past?
- Are there any specific activities or movements that trigger your balance problems?
- Do you have any medical conditions that may contribute to your balance problems?
- Are you taking any medications that may cause balance problems?
- Have you noticed any changes in your vision, hearing, or sense of touch that may be affecting your balance?
- Have you noticed any changes in your overall physical strength or mobility?
- Do you experience any tingling, numbness, or weakness in your legs or feet?
Answering these questions can help you and your doctor better understand the cause of your balance problems and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Common causes of dizziness and poor balance
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
BPPV stands for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, a type of inner ear problem that causes short episodes of dizziness or vertigo. It occurs when small calcium particles, called canaliths, become dislodged and float in one of the fluid-filled semicircular canals of the inner ear, causing false signals to be sent to the brain and creating a sensation of spinning. BPPV can be treated with specific head movements, known as the Epley maneuver, which help to reposition the canaliths back to their proper location.
What Happens During a BPPV Episode?
During a BPPV episode, an individual may experience a sudden, intense and brief spinning sensation (vertigo) that lasts from a few seconds to a minute, triggered by certain changes in the head position. This can occur when the affected person tilts their head back, looks up, rolls over in bed, or when getting in and out of bed. The vertigo is often accompanied by unsteadiness, imbalance, nausea, and vomiting. The symptoms of BPPV usually subside on their own, but in some cases they may persist until the person lies down or sits down.
How can a vestibular physiotherapist help me?
Vestibular physiotherapists can help individuals with vertigo, including those with BPPV, through various exercises and techniques designed to improve the function of the vestibular system, which is responsible for balance and spatial orientation.
Some common treatments include:
- Vestibular rehabilitation exercises: These exercises aim to improve vestibular function and reduce symptoms by retraining the brain to process and integrate vestibular information correctly.
- Repositioning maneuvers such as Epley: These are specific maneuvers, such as the Epley maneuver, that are performed by the physiotherapist to reposition the dislodged calcium particles (canaliths) in the inner ear, reducing vertigo symptoms.
- Gaze stabilization exercises: These exercises are used to help improve eye movements and stability during head movements, reducing symptoms of dizziness.
- Balance re-training: This type of therapy helps to improve balance and stability, reducing the risk of falls and increasing confidence in daily activities.
By maximizing the output and performance of these physiological systems, physical therapy can help you improve your balance and lower your risk of falling. Your balance problems are thoroughly examined by a physiotherapist, who also looks at your strength, feeling, ability to balance in different postures (like on one leg or with your eyes closed), and vestibular system performance. This evaluation enables a physical therapist to recommend a personalized program of education, fall prevention measures, therapeutic exercises, and treatment procedures that will enhance your sense of balance, stability, and self-assurance.It is important for individuals to seek medical attention if they experience frequent falls or balance problems, as it can be a sign of an underlying health issue.