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Balance Problems

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The term balance problems covers a wide range of conditions from dizziness to faintness to light-headedness. Normal balance requires your muscle strength to be in tune with three systems of senses: visual, vestibular (found in the inner ear) and somatosensory (sensations from the skin, muscles, tendons and joints). When these systems aren't functioning well, you may experience symptoms of a balance problem, falls and have trouble focusing your eyes. Different medical conditions can cause different types of balance problems.

After a thorough evaluation to assess your balance, posture, gait, eye-head coordination and strength, our Therapist can provide you with an individualized treatment plan to improve your balance and stability and decrease your risk of falling. Treatment varies from patient to patient and can include vestibular rehabilitation and muscle strengthening exercises.

Vertigo (a sense of motion or spinning)

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This form of vertigo is caused by particles that break off and accumulate behind a membrane in the inner ear canal.
  • Meniere's disease. Excessive fluid buildup in the inner ear can cause sudden vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss, and buzzing, ringing or a feeling of fullness in the ear.
  • Vestibular migraine. This type of headache causes sensitivity to motion and dizziness that may be triggered by turning the head quickly, being in a crowded or confusing place, or driving and riding in a vehicle.
  • Acoustic neuroma. An acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous (benign) growth on the acoustic nerve (which connects the inner ear to the brain). Symptoms may include dizziness, loss of balance, hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Motion sickness. This type of dizziness can occur while riding in boats, cars and airplanes, or on amusement park rides.
  • Inflammation. Swelling in the inner ear can cause vertigo.

Feeling faint (presyncope)

  • Blood pressure drop (orthostatic hypotension). A major drop in the higher number of a blood pressure reading (systolic pressure) can occur after standing or sitting up too quickly.
  • Inadequate blood flow from the heart. Conditions such as partially blocked blood vessels (atherosclerosis), heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy), abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia) or a decrease in blood volume can reduce blood flow.

Loss of balance (disequilibrium)

  • Inner ear (vestibular) problems. Abnormalities in the inner ear can cause a sensation of a floating or heavy head, and unsteadiness in the dark.
  • Balance disorders. Failing vision and nerve damage in the legs (peripheral neuropathy) are common in older adults and can cause balance problems.
  • Joint and muscle problems. Muscle weakness and the wear and tear of arthritis on weight-bearing joints can contribute to loss of balance.
  • Medications. Loss of balance can be a side effect from seizure drugs, sedatives and tranquilizers or overmedication.

Light-headedness

  • Inner ear (vestibular) disorders. Abnormalities of the inner ear can lead to a false sense of motion and a sensation of floating.
  • Anxiety disorders. Panic attacks and a fear of leaving home or being in large, open spaces (agoraphobia) may cause light-headedness.
  • Hyperventilation. Abnormally rapid breathing typically accompanies anxiety disorders and may cause a feeling of light-headedness.

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