Balance & Gait Disorders
How Physiotherapy Can Help Improve Your Gait and Steady Your Balance
Do you ever catch yourself using a wall or piece of furniture for support when you’re standing up? Do you ever experience pain in your knees, hips, or other joints that changes the way you walk? Do you feel unsteady or unsafe at home or in the community? If you’re nodding after reading those sentences, you might be dealing with a gait or balance disorder.
Gait and balance disorders increase your risk of falls and injury. Falls are a leading cause of injury for seniors, accounting for up to 85% of all injury-related hospitalizations. The Canadian health care system spends approximately $2 billion annually in the direct treatment of fall-related injuries. This does not account for the long-term effects of a fall-related injury.
Your physiotherapist is trained to identify the cause of your balance or gait issues, and to develop a treatment plan to reduce your risk of falls and injury. If you would like to learn more about how you can start improving your balance and gait, get in touch with Amped Physiotherapy to schedule an appointment today.
What’s the difference between a gait and balance disorder?
Gait and balance disorders are included in a group of functional issues that can interfere with the way you normally walk or run, your ability to keep yourself standing up straight, and your overall positional awareness.
Your gait is your manner of walking. Your pattern of movement can be affected by something as simple as a stubbed toe, or something as complex as a stroke or a spinal cord injury.
Your balance is your sense of where you are in space – this can be in any position, whether at rest or in movement. Your balance can be affected by many things – your joints, your vision, your vestibular system or your environment.
Your balance can affect your gait, and vice versa. Your physiotherapist is trained to assess and identify the cause of your gait or balance issues.
What causes balance and gait disorders to develop?
Getting injured or becoming ill
A chronic disease, sudden injury, or illness can lead to changes in your movement patterns, deconditioning (general muscle weakness), loss of endurance. This can interfere with your balance and your gait.
Age related changes
Our vestibular (inner ear) system becomes less sensitive as we age, causing a decrease in the response to faster head movements. This decrease can lead to an increase in falls risk and balance issues, affecting daily life.
Brain injuries, strokes and peripheral nerve injuries and chronic neurological conditions (Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS) can significantly affect your balance and (depending on the condition) affect your vestibular system.
Dizziness and vertigo
Vertigo is most commonly caused by an imbalance in the inner ear, also known as the “vestibular system.”
Your vestibular system helps you maintain your balance and center of gravity by sending messages to your brain regarding your movement. When this is impaired, your sense of equilibrium and your movement becomes affected.
You may feel as if the world is spinning around you, you can’t focus your vision for prolonged periods of time, you feel nauseous, or you can’t stand/move properly without feeling like you are going to fall.
Check out our section on dizziness and vertigo for more information!
Can physiotherapy help with my gait or balance disorder?
Physical therapy is the best possible option when it comes to improving your balance and ability to walk. One of our registered physiotherapists will provide you with a comprehensive physical evaluation to examine your gait, balance, stance, symptoms, and medical history. They will then create a personalized treatment plan for your individual needs. This treatment plan may include:
This type of physiotherapy works to improve your vestibular system as a whole, including your vision, nerves and muscles, in order to maintain a steady balance. If your vestibular system is a cause of your balance and gait issues, our vestibular physiotherapist can perform techniques to treat BPPV and prescribe exercises to retrain your vestibular system.
Retraining your gait and balance
Your physiotherapist can assess your balance and your walking patterns to determine which movements you may need help to learn or improve. By retraining your balance and walking tasks, you can become more stable and confident in your daily activities.
Strengthening and mobility exercises
During your evaluation with your physiotherapist, they will focus on the areas in your body that need help. Your physiotherapist will also teach you helpful strengthening and exercises you can do on your own. These exercises help to increase your range of motion, flexibility and strength, thus giving you more control over your movements. This will make moving around much easier.If you’ve been struggling with keeping your balance, it’s time to get you the help you need. Contact us today at Amped Physiotherapy, to schedule an appointment with one of our registered physiotherapists. We’ll work hard to get you back on your feet and feeling stable in no time at all!