The Balance Center at ORA provides physical therapy to improve balance and/or reduce symptoms of dizziness. Anyone who has ever slipped on a patch of ice knows how unnerving it can be to lose your balance – for a moment your world is literally turned upside down. Yet balance – the ability to control and maintain your body’s position as it moves through space – is such an integral, ever-present part of daily life that most people rarely give it a conscious thought. There are conditions, however, that may impair your sense of balance and contribute to falls. The Balance Center can improve many of these conditions. Balance is a skill that you can keep – or recapture. We will help you regain that skill again.
Three Ways Your Body Senses Balance:
1. Somatosensory system – senses how your feet interact with the environment to distinguish between differing surfaces, such as grass, rocks, ramps and smooth surfaces.
People who lack sensation in their legs or feet may have difficulty distinguishing between surfaces – resulting in imbalance.
2. Visual system – Input from vision is our most important balance system.
Often people need a new prescription for glasses or a cataract removed as it is important to have the best vision possible.
3. Vestibular system – housed in your inner ear and provides equilibrium, which senses if you are still, moving, standing upright or leaning.
People with vestibular problems may suffer from vertigo, dizziness or poor balance.
Causes of dizziness and imbalance
Dizziness and imbalance can be caused by various factors, but are often caused by dysfunction of the vestibular system. In spite of what many believe, it is not a normal part of aging.
The following two diagnoses are often treated by a physician or physical therapist specially trained in vestibular rehabilitation:
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo – is the most common cause of dizziness/vertigo.
- It is caused when calcium carbonate crystals called "otoconia" become dislodged in the inner ear and fall into a semicircular canal.
- It is non-life threatening.
- Certain head positions bring about symptoms of spinning/vertigo usually lasting less than 60 seconds.
- Can be accompanied by nausea, blurred vision or vomiting.
- Occurs spontaneously in most people; however other potential causes are head injury, whiplash and degeneration of the vestibular system.
- It is very common with incidents occurring in 40% of the population over 40 years of age and 60% over 60 years of age.
Treatment: It can be effectively resolved with a simple movement-based treatment protocol that is 80-90% successful.
Vestibular Hypofunction – is characterized by a loss of strength or sensitivity in the vestibular system.
- Affects one or both inner ears
- May lead to complaints of dizziness and/or imbalance
- Tests performed by physicians, physical therapists and audiologists trained in vestibular dysfunction can pinpoint the weakness
Treatment: There are two basic balance physical therapy principles involved in the treatment.
1. One involves repeated stimulation to the vestibular system through head motion.
2. The other involves lessening the degree to which the person can rely on their other two sensory systems, visual and somatosensory, which thereby forces the use of the vestibular system.
If the balance system cannot be rehabilitated then compensation strategies can be very effective. Visit ORA to get your balance physical therapy started.