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Vestibular & Balance Therapy

Steady Your Balance at MAXX PT

Do you feel unsteady, or not quite as sure-footed as you once were? Do you feel the need to hold on to walls or furniture to steady yourself?  Did pain in your hips, knees, or other joints change the way that you walk? If so, you may be suffering from a balance or gait disorder. Balance and gait problems can develop for a variety of reasons and can be physically and mentally disrupting. Underlying musculoskeletal and neurological disorders can cause or aggravate a balance or gait problem. Luckily, physical therapy can significantly reduce your symptoms or correct your condition altogether. For more information on how you can steady your balance and improve your gait, schedule an appointment today!

 

Why is my balance off?

There can be many causes of balance and gait disorders, as they can develop from many different underlying conditions. For balance disorders, many are related to issues in the vestibular system, which is a delicate collection of fluid-filled chambers and sensory nerves, located in the inner ear, and thousands of nerve receptors in the joints throughout your body. The vestibular system is responsible for your sense of position, also known as “proprioception.” 


Some common vestibular conditions resulting in balance disorders include:

  • Injury or ailment - Even if your brain and nervous system are working in harmony with one another, a sudden injury, disease, or other ailment causing muscle weakness can interfere with your balance and make it difficult to keep yourself upright. 

  • Neurological issues - This may include Parkinson’s disease, brain injury, or stroke. Anything that affects your neurological system can also impact your balance.

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) - This occurs when calcium debris breaks off in the inner ear, causing issues with balance.

 

Balance vs Gait Disorders

Balance and gait disorders belong to a family of functional problems that interfere with your positional awareness, your normal means of walking or running, and your ability to keep yourself upright. 


Balance and gait disorders are closely related, but they do have some distinct differences. Balance disorders are both physical and mental, as your brain may think you are moving, even when you are not. Changes to your joint strength, mobility, and ability to sense where your joints are in space (proprioception), all have physical consequences on your balance.

Gait disorders can cause abnormal movements to the way you walk and run, and these can become exaggerated with age. According to MFPT, gait disorders account for 17 percent of senior falls.

 
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Physical therapy can help your balance & gait

When it comes to improving your balance and ability to walk, physical therapy is the best possible option. Our Lake Charles physical therapists will conduct a comprehensive physical evaluation to examine your balance, gait, stance, medical history, and symptoms. Then a personalized treatment plan will be created for your specific needs.


Your treatment plan may include:

  • Stretches - Stretching will help improve your flexibility and your range of motion. This will give you more control and quicker reactions with your movements, also reducing your risk of injury. It will also keep your muscles from becoming too tight and stiff.

  • Strengthening exercises - Your evaluation will help determine what problem areas in your body may need help. Our physical therapist will provide you with strengthening exercises that will build up your muscles, thus making it much easier for you to move around and reduce your risk of injury.

  • Vestibular rehabilitation - This physical therapy treatment works to improve your vision, nerves, muscles, and the vestibular system as a whole, in order to maintain a steady balance. If you are suffering from BPPV, our physical therapists will provide you with specific exercises that will move the calcium debris to the correct parts of your ear, correcting your vertigo.

  • Gait retraining exercises - Sometimes, abnormalities in gait can be corrected through a “retraining” where you learn proper techniques.

If you are suffering from a balance or gait disorder, schedule an appointment at MAXX Physical Therapy, and we will help you feel steady on your feet in no time!

 

Vertigo & Vestibular Rehab

Vertigo is the feeling of a rocking or rotation when you are perfectly still. It tends to last for several hours or days. Medically, it is distinct from dizziness because it involves the sensation of movement. Vertigo is often due a problem in the inner ear. An important part of the inner ear is the collection of semicircular canals. These structures are lined with cells that act like a gyroscope for the body and are responsible for providing feedback of our position.

There are a variety of causes for this condition. The cause may be central or peripheral. Central causes occur in the spinal cord or brain, while peripheral is due to a problem with the inner ear. An illness or small crystals in the inner ear that become displaced can cause an irritation within the semicircular canals. This is a central cause and known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). With Meniere’s disease, there is a fluid buildup in the inner ear that can cause vertigo. Headaches, head injuries, strokes, tumors and multiple sclerosis can also cause vertigo.

Head injuries definitely increase the risk factor for vertigo. In addition, antidepressants, aspirin, blood pressure medications and anti-seizure meds can also cause vertigo. For some, alcohol can cause vertigo.

To diagnose vertigo, a medical professional will take a full history of your symptoms and events. This includes previous medical issues, recent illnesses and medications. Then, a physical exam is performed. It includes a comprehensive neurological exam to check brain function. This allows for the determination of whether it’s peripheral or central. Signs of abnormal eye movement may pinpoint the problem. The Dix-Hallpike test or the roll test may be done. The Dix-Hallpike test repositions the head and monitors symptoms. With the roll test, the head is rapidly moved from side to side. A CT scan or MRI may be done to exclude structural problems. Sometimes, electronystagmography may be performed.

The most effective treatments if the vertigo is peripheral include partial repositioning movements. It’s known as the canalith repositioning procedure or the Epley maneuver. Specific head movements are performed to move the crystals in the inner ear. Cawthorne head exercises may also be performed. It’s a series of head and eye movements. This leads to decreased sensitivity of the nerves and improves vertigo. However, this needs to be done on a regular basis for optimal results. A MAXX physical therapist can perform these types of treatment. Keep in mind that medications may provide some relief but are not a cure. Meclizine is the most popular medication prescribed. 

Most patients with peripheral vertigo can find substantial relief with treatment; it has been suggested that the Epley maneuver in cases of BPPV can benefit as many as 90% of affected patients. Although recurrence of BPPV may be more than 15% in the first year after an episode, it is unlikely that vertigo will persist beyond a few days. When vertigo persists, evaluation for any underlying structural problems of the brain, spinal canal, or inner ear may be necessary.

Are you feeling dizzy with a sense of movement? You just might be experiencing vertigo. Make your world stop spinning with the help of our experienced and certified physical therapists. They are trained in the Cawthorne head exercises and Epley maneuver for vertigo. They can even give you instruction on how to do these exercises at home. Schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists for a full evaluation of your symptoms. We have helped many others and can to help you too!