Balance and Vestibular Program
When simple tasks are disrupted by dizziness and loss of balance
Balance is vital to everyday life and simple activities such as getting out of a chair, walking, bending over to put on shoes, washing your hair, driving a car, or going shopping. When balance problems develop there can be serious consequences: risk for falls increase, attention span can be shortened and abnormal sleep patterns can result, causing excess fatigue. For individuals with a medical condition, the ability to maintain balance is even more complex. The CHI Health Balance and Vestibular Program can help individuals whose lives have been disrupted by dizziness and loss of balance, regain their independence.
Here are the facts:
- 90 million Americans will experience a dizziness or balance problem that significantly interferes with their lives.
- 30 - 40% of people over age 65 will fall each year. Even falls that may not result in injury can have serious consequences. The fear of falling may cause individuals to reduce activity that leads to loss of strength, flexibility and mobility. Loss of strength and flexibility increases the risk of future falls.
- Falls are not a normal process of aging; 30-40% of falls can be prevented. Complaints of dizziness or unsteadiness can be the first sign that an injury or a medical problem exists. Your physician is the first line of defense in early diagnosis and prevention.
- Dizziness is the second most common reason people seek medical help.
- Although dizziness can be caused by many different medical conditions, as much as one-third of those who seek medical attention have dizziness because of problems with their vestibular system.
Why do we lose our balance?
Loss of balance and falls are not inevitable as we grow older. However, balance and dizziness problems can significantly increase with age, as well as the risk for more serious injuries. To complicate matters further, falls are typically not the result of a single cause or risk factor. More often, they are the result of a combination of factors. That is why patients can benefit from their physician and physical therapist working together to diagnose, treat and prevent future loss of balance.
Here are some factors that can be evaluated to determine your risk for falls:
- Level of physical fitness
- Presence of disease and ailments
- Psychological factors
- Social factors
- Environmental factors
- Types of walking surfaces
- Poor lighting
Common symptoms leading to a fall:
- Taking one or more medications
- Recent period of bed rest or inactivity
- Loss of strength or sensation in the legs or feet
- Loss of confidence in the ability to get around
Good news for getting help
The vestibular system is your balance and motion center. Its primary function is to tell the brain where the head is in space. It also helps to stabilize your vision while your head is moving. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is the process of training the vestibular system to work more efficiently to reduce dizziness and improve balance. VRT has been shown to be very effective for many people with dizziness and balance disorders.
Physical therapists in the CHI Health Balance and Vestibular program are specially trained to assess how the sensory and motor parts of the human balance system work together to control balance. Sensory tests assess these three systems that contribute to balance control:
- Inner ears
- Joint position sense/Proprioception
Motor tests measure the ability to coordinate voluntary and involuntary movements to maintain balance. Based on these test results, the physical therapist will work with your physician to customize treatment for maximum benefit. An individualized plan of care will be developed with you to help improve balance and reduce the risk of falls.
Answer each question as it pertains to your dizziness and balance.
- Does turning over in bed increase your problem?
- Because of your problem do you have a sense of unsteadiness?
- Do quick movements of your head increase your problem?
- Are you uncomfortable trying to get around in the dark?
- Does bending over increase your problem?
- Do you feel like the world is moving even though you are standing still?
- Do your symptoms interfere with your usual work activities or outside activities?
- Are you afraid of falling?
- During the past year, have you fallen more than once?
If you answer yes to any of these questions you may benefit from a Balance and Vestibular assessment by a physical therapist. The benefit you will receive improves with each yes answer. Most importantly you should talk to your doctor as each yes answer also increases your fall risk.
How Can I Schedule an Evaluation?
A physician referral is required for balance and vestibular rehabilitation therapy. If you think you could benefit, contact your physician for a referral.