Your balance and gait describes your ability to stand upright without losing balance and the pattern and rhythm with which your limbs move while you walk. For many people, balance and gait come naturally without having to think too much about it, but if you’ve suffering a neurological or musculoskeletal injury, you may find yourself having to concentrate extra hard on keeping your balance while standing or moving, or on maintaining a normal gait as you walk.
If you’re experiencing balance and gait problems, it’s important to address the issue before it worsens. Chronically losing your balance or having gait issues can drastically disrupt your quality of life, lead to falls and prevent you from participating in daily activities that you enjoy.
Fortunately, physical therapy is a proven treatment option for most balance and gait disorders. However, before your physical therapist can recommend a treatment plan, you must first determine the cause of your symptoms to best address them at the root.
Causes of balance and gait disorders
There are many issues that can lead to balance and gait disorders. Some causes are minor and resolve on their own, such as an ear infection causing vertigo. However, some issues are more prominent and require active treatment (often physical therapy) to resolve. These issues may include:
- Damage to the musculoskeletal system, such as fractures, tendinitis and sprains.
- Podiatry issues, such as corns, calluses and anything affecting the ability of the feet to carry weight.
- Arthritis that damages the joints and can cause balance issues.
- Vision problems.
- Inner ear issues.
- Neurological issues, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and stroke.
- Brain disorders.
Once you determine the cause of your balance and gait issues, you can work with a physical therapist to help reduce your symptoms and get back to your normal lifestyle.
Symptoms of balance and gait issues
The most common symptoms of balance and gait disorders include:
- Irregular rhythm when walking, whether of footsteps or limbs.
- Unsteadiness while walking or standing.
- Difficulty standing up after sitting.
- Drastically slowed walking pace.
- Vertigo and/or dizziness.
- Motion sickness.
- Double vision.
- Muscle tightness, spasms or weakness in the legs.
- Difficulty perceiving where body parts are in space.
Treatments for balance and gait disorders
Physical therapy helps address balance and gait issues through a series of treatments, including:
- Balance and gait training.
- Vestibular rehabilitation.
- Manual therapy.
- Core strengthening.
- Fall Prevention Education.
Your physical therapist will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that addresses the cause of your balance and gait issues, as well as your recovery goals. To learn more about how physical therapy can help you, find a location nearest you and schedule an appointment or free screening today.