You can generally improve your balance with exercise and physical therapy.
Balance disorders commonly affect the elderly. Balance problems are caused by a number of factors, including medications, disease, inner ear problems, poor muscle tone and lack of activity. Outpatient physical therapy and exercise instruction may help seniors enjoy fuller and more active lifestyles. Whether balance issues are caused by physical conditions or sedentary lifestyles or a fear of falling, physical therapy exercises can help increase balance, coordination, strength and stability.
Physical therapy can help with balance and stability. The general decline of muscle strength, neuromuscular disorders, or middle ear pathology may severely limit your independence and ability to perform daily living activities, which can be addressed with physical therapy.
Balance Retraining Therapy
If you've been diagnosed with any type of middle ear damage or infection, neuromuscular problems, or general decline in strength or health your balance and stability may be compromised. Balance retraining therapy is effective in helping you maintain your balance as well as increase your strength, range of motion and ability to perform daily living skills. This type of training can be done at an outpatient physical therapy clinic. Some exercises performed in balance retraining therapy include hand-eye coordination exercises and range of motion exercises that help your body adapt to changing position, as well as strengthening joints and flexibility and balance exercises with the help of your physical therapist.
Walking is a common physical therapy exercise used by physical therapists to help rehabilitate patients who've experienced balance or gait problems. Heel to toe walking, side stepping and forward and backward walking with focus on stride length and stability are examples of ways to address balance functionally.
Your outpatient physical therapist may ask you to stand or perform walking or other exercises on a variety of surfaces. For example, physical therapy often includes asking patients to balance on one or both feet, with or without assistance on changing surfaces such as foam, pavement, grass, pillows or sofa cushions. Balancing exercises may help restore confidence to maintain stability and reduce the fear of falling.
Your physical therapist may also instruct you on stability exercises to strengthen weakened muscles or for general strengthening and coordination benefits. For example, your physical therapist may ask you to stand behind a chair, holding the backrest while you shift your body weight from side to side or forward and backward. This type of exercise also helps those diagnosed with vertigo or one-sided weakness caused by stroke or disability. Strengthening and flexibility exercises for the lower extremities will also improve the body’s ability to maintain balance.