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What is normal balance?
Normal balance is the interaction of three sensory systems and the ability of the body to adjust and regain stability when compromised.
What are the three sensory systems?
The three sensory systems that help you to keep your balance are your vision, your vestibular system and your somatosensory system. Your vision helps you to anticipate and predict potential challenges to your balance. Another system is your vestibular system. And that’s the connections between your inner ear and your body and your brain. And it’s your equilibrium center. And then your somatosensory system, which is basically what your body tells you about where you are in space. So that you know your arm is raised over your head without having to look and see that your arm is there.
Why do people lose their balance?
One reason why people may lose their balance is if their sensory system isn’t working well. So, if you have vision changes like cataracts or macular degeneration, you don’t have that system working as well for you which may affect your balance. Many times people have problems with their balance who have neuropathy and the feeling from their feet isn’t accurate. Sometimes people say that it feels like they’re walking on a cloud and they can’t feel where their feet are. That actually can put you at risk for falls. And your vestibular system, if you have dizziness or a problem with your vestibular system, that can also put you at risk for falls.
What can a physical therapist do for me?
A physical therapist will help you with your balance, performing an evaluation, to pinpoint the specific underlining causes of your balance problems. After the examination, they will discuss the results and identify specific areas and the kind of treatment that will have the greatest benefit to reduce your fall risk. A physical therapist then will provide you with an individualized treatment program tailored to your specific needs in order to address your specific deficits. A physical therapist can also educate you about community resources and can determine if you are at risk for further falls down the road and help to reduce your risk.
Will a cane help me with balance problems?
There’s several different styles and different types of canes, walkers, crutches and different forearm crutches that people may use to improve their balance or compensate for any balance problems and a physical therapist can help you evaluate which device will be the best fit for you and help your problem the most. A cane may seem pretty simple to use but having a physical therapist adjust the cane properly and help you to use it correctly can help to prevent further problems down the road. Many times people don’t use a cane correctly and may end up having a fall because of that.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's senior health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about senior health, read the Senior Health News archive.