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How can Physical Therapy help with balance impairments?

Updated: Jun 21, 2023


According to the CDC, 1 in 4 older adults (over the age of 65) will fall each year, and sadly, once you’ve fallen, you are more likely to fall again. Additionally, 1 in 5 falls results in some sort of bodily injury. You may be asking yourself, what is causing these falls?


Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. These risk factors can include:

  • Lower body weakness

  • Vitamin D deficiency

  • Difficulties with walking/balance

  • Use of certain medications (ex. Sedatives, tranquilizers, or some antidepressants)

  • Vision problems

  • Poor sensation in your feet

  • Home hazards (ex. broken steps, throw rugs, clutter)


So, what can you do to avoid being that 1 in 4 older adults fall?


Improve Lower Body Strength

Lower body strength plays a major role in your ability to maintain and regain your balance. Glute and hip strength, as well as foot and ankle strength, are most important to allow for the proper use of balance strategies. Without having the strength and control to use our ankle strategies (using the muscles around our ankles to avoid loss of balance) or hip strategies (using the muscles around our hips to avoid loss of balance), we are unable to overcome a loss of balance, like being bumped into at the grocery store, and more likely to fall. A physical therapist can help you strengthen the correct muscles required to optimize the use of these balance strategies.


Improve Reaction time

So what happens if you are knocked off balance? You need to be able to catch yourself. This is called using our stepping reactions, meaning, your ability to step in the direction you are losing your balance and stabilize yourself. Often as we age, our reaction time becomes slower, so though we may still react to the loss of balance, we may not be able to react fast enough to stop a fall. Physical therapists can design activities that facilitate the use of these stepping strategies and strengthen them, thus increasing your reaction time and improving your ability to catch yourself/stop a fall.


Improve Vestibular Function

Vestibular dysfunction is defined as a disturbance in the body’s balance system that is in the inner ear. Dysfunction in this area can increase your risk for falls. Symptoms of vestibular dysfunction can include dizziness resulting in loss of balance or overall unsteadiness. Physical therapy can help by training your vestibular system and “strengthening” it like a muscle. Physical therapists are able to give you exercises and techniques to help decrease your symptoms, further decreasing your fall risk.


Teach you how to fall and get back up safely.

Sometimes, falls are inevitable, and if they do happen, you want to be able to have the strength, balance, and tricks to help you get up from the floor safely. Physical therapists, in addition to helping you strengthen the muscles necessary to avoid falls and be able to get up from the floor, can also give tips and tricks on how to fall safely as well as ways to make getting up easier. Often if people know they are able to fall safely or know they will be able to get themselves up following a fall, this can decrease the fear of a fall occurring and improve their overall quality of life.


As above, physical therapists are trained in a wide variety of techniques to improve your balance and therefore decrease your risk for falls. At Wellness 360, all our therapists are experts in strengthening and techniques required to improve balance and reduce your fall risk with one-on-one sessions catered to your specific needs. For more information, visit us at www.wellness360fitness.com.


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