Balance and Fall Prevention
Balance is controlled by the visual, vestibular and proprioceptive systems, which work together. If one of these systems is impaired, poor balance can result, creating a much greater risk of a fall.
Dizziness and poor balance may result from injury to the visual, vestibular or proprioceptive systems. Poor posture, lack of flexibility or weakness may also reduce balance and lead to an increase risk of falling. Other causes of falls can include:
- Chronic diseases that affect physical or mental function
- Specific medications or interaction between medications
- Inner ear infection or disease
- Head injury, especially from a previous fall
Being afraid of having a fall also makes it more likely you will fall. A change in environment, such as moving to a new home, can also increase the risk of falling.
Individuals may experience balance issues and dizziness very differently. Symptoms can include:
- A sensation of lightheadedness or faintness
- A feeling of motion even when still
- A sensation of spinning in which one is moving or the environment is spinning (vertigo).
Equipment such as canes or walkers have traditionally been used, along with medication, but the systems that help control balance can also be strengthened to help improve balance and minimize falls. Vestibular physical therapy uses specialized exercises to address specific areas of the individual’s vestibular/balance disorder.