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Balance & Fall Prevention

  • One of every three people age 65 and older fall each year.
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in individuals over age 65.
  • Dizziness is a problem with serious consequences that can often be diminished or resolved through physical therapy.

What is Involved in Balance?

Balance is achieved as the brain takes in information from your environment and uses it to maintain an upright position in response to movement or changes.  There are three systems that contribute to balance: vision, the vestibular system, and the somatosensory system.  Through vision, our brain uses the horizon to assist in balance.  The vestibular system located in the inner ear provides information about head position in space as well as head movements.  The somatosensory system  is composed of the input our brain receives from muscles and joints throughout the body, all of which is utilized to determine joint angles and from that, the body’s position in space.   The brain takes information from all three systems to maintain balance.  When information from these systems is conflicting, a person may feel dizzy or off balance.  It is important to address and correct the area of dysfunction in order to prevent falls or injury.

How Can Physical Therapy Help?

Specially trained physical therapists are experts in assessing and treating individuals at high risk for falls.  We can evaluate a person’s ability to utilize the three systems of balance independently and in combination with the others.  We can determine which of the systems is not being utilized appropriately and, through therapy, enhance the utilization of that system to improve balance and decrease a person’s risk of falls.  If a body system is compromised, such as with vision loss, peripheral neuropathy associated with diabetes, or vestibular dysfunction, a physical therapist can help re-train your brain to compensate by using the remaining available systems.

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