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2 Warning Signs You Need Help For Your Bad Balance Before It Gets Worse

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Balance is the ability of your body to distribute weight in a way that allows you to hold a steady position or move independently without falling. Although those over 65 are the most common age group with bad balance, it may start much younger. It’s one of the most common reasons people seek care at our Physical Therapy clinic in Lansing.

As we age, muscles that help us stand upright and tall begin to weaken, our stride becomes shorter, our steps begin to slow, and our eyesight isn’t as sharp as it used to be. Over the years, the combination of these changes are the primary causes of bad balance, prompting many older adults to move less and become more sedentary. This process causes further loss of balance — it can become a vicious cycle.

To get an idea of how serious this is: Emergency rooms treat seniors for fall-related injuries every 11 seconds. Additionally, falls in older adults can be deadly. According to the CDC, falls are “the leading cause of injury-related death” for those over 65 years old. A fall may result in a broken hip, a concussion, or other serious injuries. If you have bad balance, You can prevent most falls with proper treatment.

And so we’re clear, bad balance isn’t just a problem for those over 65. We see people in our Physical therapy clinic in Lansing from all over the age spectrum with balance problems.

What are the causes of bad balance?

As mentioned above, bad balance is not usually as simple as a singular cause. However, these are some of the most common factors leading to bad balance:

  1. The most common cause of bad balance is a gradual loss of muscle mass. This process is known as Sarcopenia.
  2. Vision changes – Age-related vision changes can make it more difficult to scan the horizon with your eyes or focus on risks within an environment.
  3. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) – This is a condition where tiny crystals in your inner ear become disrupted. It often results in vertigo when turning one direction more than the other.
  4. Parkinson’s Disease, parkinsonism, and other similar diseases may significantly impact your ability to balance well.
  5. Viruses and other illnesses – viruses have been known to create problems in your brain’s ability to process the signals of balance from your eyes and inner ear. 
  6. Stroke or brain injury – Strokes, concussions, or brain injuries may contribute to a loss of balance, depending on the location of the damage within the brain.

What are the top two signs you need to get help for bad balance at our Physical Therapy Clinic in Lansing?

  1. You can perform a quick balance screen by standing on one leg without shoes. (I know the picture shows shoes but that was an oopsie!) You should be able to hold this position for 10 seconds without any significant compensations (wiggling around, squeezing your legs together, constantly re-adjusting with your hands).
Standing on one leg
Test 1: Standing on one leg for 10 seconds.
  1. You should also have no difficulty standing with your feet together and eyes closed for 10 seconds (make sure someone is nearby to catch you). Stand in a corner. Cross your arms across your chest, close your eyes, and have someone observe your balance. If you have great difficulty with this second test, it may mean you are over-reliant on your vision for balance and need physical therapy to correct this.
Standing in a corner with eyes closed
2nd test: Standing in a corner with eyes closed for 10 seconds

While these tests don’t tell you the exact cause of bad balance and how dependent on the vision you are for balance. The two tests can also give you a starting place to see if your balance is a problem or not. If you are worried about falling or are struggling to hold either of these positions for 10 seconds or longer, we highly recommend you reach out to our Physical Therapy clinic in Lansing.

What can you do at home to treat bad balance?

What can you do to prevent falls as time goes on? In most cases, Physical therapists recommend maintaining or improving your balance by strengthening deep core muscles and your legs and feet.

The easiest and first thing you can do to prevent falls from bad balance is removing objects in your environment that may trigger a fall. Any throw rugs or clutter on the floor should be the first to go. Install some nightlights to guide your path to a bathroom or kitchen.

Your vision may change as you get older, thereby increasing your risk of falls in low-light situations. Spending a few dollars for some nightlights may save you thousands in medical bills.

A good starting point to work on your balance is the same as the assessment—practice building up your endurance by standing on one leg. Start with your hands on a counter, and gradually build up your ability to stand for longer periods of time.

Standing on one leg with finger tips on a counter
Standing on one leg with finger tips on a counter.

You can then remove your hands from the surface, and maybe even introduce some movement with the opposite leg (tapping the foot in a circle, etc.)

If your balance doesn’t improve after a few weeks of trying this, something else needs expert assessment and treatment for bad balance at our physical therapy clinic in Lansing.

Toe tap progression for bad balance
Toe tap progression for bad balance.

When should I seek treatment for Bad Balance at a Physical Therapy Clinic in Lansing?

If you find that it’s harder to stay steady on your feet and you’ve not been able to fix your bad balance on your own, it is time to get some help from an expert Physical Therapist.

A consistent and expertly-designed exercise program will build and maintain strength, flexibility, and balance. Our physical therapists will examine you to assess your balance and risk of falling. Guidelines recommend screening adults 65 and older for fall risk every year. A comprehensive evaluation and balance training are vital in preventing potential slips and trips. We’ll help you live without the fear of an accidental fall or injury in any sports.

Want to Achieve a Steady, Healthy Life Without Fears of Injury from Bad Balance? We Can Help.

We create individualized solutions for those seeking treatment for bad balance with gentle exercises, safety training, and muscle strengthening to help those who may struggle with balance issues due to injury or aging.

For help improving your balance and steadiness on your feet, reach out to us at our Physical Therapy clinic in Lansing. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation. Our expert therapists are ready to help you live a safe, healthy life.

Chris S
AUTHOR

Dr. Chris Sovey

Healthy Consumer PT

"We Help Adults 40+ Living With Pain, Stiffness, Or Loose Joints Get Healthy, Age Stronger, And Get Back To The Activities They Love, Even If Past Treatments Have Failed"

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