Bad falls are a constant worry for seniors and others who have physical challenges. And those worries aren’t unfounded. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and serious health problems in the U.S.
Improving your walking skills — technically known as your “gait” — and your balance are interrelated challenges. Physical therapy helps you master these skills to decrease your risk of injury, while at the same time increasing your confidence and independence.
Who Can Benefit from Balance and Gait Training in Jacksonville?
While mobility and balance declines are not always inevitable, they do occur with increasing age. Balance disorders can manifest as:
- History of falls
- Insufficient strength in the feet and legs
- Problems getting up from a bed or chair
These symptoms can be experienced by you or your loved ones. Rehabilitation can reduce falls and increase independence.
What are the Benefits of Balance and Gait Training?
Physical therapy can give you the tools to alleviate the symptoms of balance and gait disorders. In many cases, physical therapy can even help you completely recover from the condition. Before creating a customized treatment plan, your physical therapist will perform a thorough physical exam to assess your balance, gait and stance.
Balance and gait are inextricably linked because they tend to impact one another. Even if you don’t think you’re in danger of falling over, that “running out of steam” while walking that you’re attributing to aging muscles could be something else. The problem might actually be slowing reflexes, which make moving around seem more strenuous than it is. By the same token, poor posture and gait can throw off those reflexes.
In fact, the balance and gait systems both rely to some extent on a complex number of body systems that include the inner ear, the eyes, the joint-muscle-nerve system, and of course cognitive functions. Therapy that improves gait and balance works with all of these systems to keep them functioning in harmony.
The treatment plan could include:
- Strengthening exercises – Your evaluation will identify any areas that may require attention. Your physical therapist will give you exercises to increase muscular strength. This will make it easier to move and lower your chance of injury.
- Stretches – Stretching can improve flexibility and range of motion. Stretching will prevent your muscles from becoming stiff and tight.
- Vestibular Rehabilitation – This is a physical therapy treatment that works to improve your vision and nerves. Our physical therapists can provide specific exercises to move calcium debris from your ears to treat BPPV.
- Gait retraining exercises – Sometimes abnormalities in gait can sometimes be corrected by a “retraining”, which teaches you proper techniques. In a study cited by the Arthritis Foundation, patients suffering from osteoarthritis-related gait disorders were able to successfully alter their gait through treadmill exercises.
Gait and balance training have a range of benefits, with avoiding injuries being at the top of the list. Beyond lessening your chances of falling or feeling dizzy, you’re also more likely to feel confident with your footing. In addition, those aches and pains from poor posture are likely to decrease as well.
What Does Balance and Gait Training Entail?
First, we’ll evaluate your gait to determine potential problems with strength and posture. Simple movements to test balance are also part of the assessment. Together, these basic evaluations point us in the direction of what to focus on in terms of therapy.
Hip and ankle weakness often leads to balance problems, as does poor posture. Strength and flexibility movements can help counteract these problems. These are often as simple as leg lifts while seated in a chair, or “knee marching.” We may also practice standing on one leg, walking heel-to-toe, or tracking the movement of your thumb with your eyes as you move it in various positions.
Get Help For Balance Issues in Jacksonville
With our dedicated team of physical therapists behind you, you’ll regain confidence in navigating challenging terrain and learning how to avoid dizzy spells. You may even be able to leave that cane or walker behind!
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Optimize Physical Therapy literally saved my career. I was split squatting at the school gym and when I went down, I couldn’t come back up. I put down the bar as gently as possible and literally crawled out of the gym and into my car. I drove to Optimize and John Jacob Evanich was there to help me out. I was in 9/10 pain if I tried to stand straight up. He laid me down on my side and said, “Alright breathe in, and out,” then pressed down on my spine and side and gave me a little nudge. It was like the hand of Jesus touched me and healed me. It was like I was instantly cured. I got up and moved around with ZERO pain. Let me repeat that, “ZERO pain.” Optimize has also helped with rehab for my shoulder after labrum surgery and rehab/prehab but that one story of me not being able to walk is too good not to share. Thank you again Optimize PT!
I highly recommend Optimize Physical Therapy & Sports Performance! I was having pain & limited range of motion with my lower back & Jacob not only helped relieve my pain but also increased my range of motion. He gave me stretching & exercises to do at home which added to his treatments that got me back to my pre-injury state!