Today’s topic on balance covers both sexes from all age groups, and will touch on balance symptoms, causes and treatment options.
How do you define balance?
Balance is the body’s ability to maintain its equilibrium or put more simply, the body’s ability to equally distribute its weight. When your body balances properly, you have the ability to see clearly when moving, identify your direction and orientation, and automatically make adjustments in your posture to maintain stability in different activities and conditions.
To maintain balance, the human brain depends on receiving accurate information from three balance organs, namely the eyes, muscles & joints, and vestibular (inner ear) organs. Sensory contributions from these three sources are processed in the brain and it sends out the necessary response reaction.
Poor balance is more often noticed in the older generation or in people with medical issues, and most balance problems are associated with the vestibular system.
Poor balance signs & symptoms
Do be on the look-out for telltale signs and symptoms of poor balance that include:
- lightheadedness or feeling faint
- unsteadiness / unsteady on the feet
- sensation that you might fall or falling
- blurry vision
Poor balance leads to instability which is the cause of many falls and broken bones, good balance is vital. Some falls are fatal, e.g., falling backwards and hitting your head can lead to a brain injury.
Causes of balance problems
There are many causes related to balance problems, of which the more common ones are covered briefly as below:
Dizziness – this condition can result from a few issues such as vestibular (inner ear) problems, psychiatric disorders such as anxiety or depression, hyperventilation and certain medications.
Lightheadedness or feeling faint
This can be due to postural hypotension (standing up or sitting up too quickly), or cardiovascular disease, where both conditions can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Vertigo – a feeling that the surroundings are spinning around you
Vertigo is associated with many conditions, e.g., motion sickness, a head injury, migraine, dizziness, or inner ear infection, to name a few.
This condition is also a result from a few issues, such as vestibular problems, peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage to the legs), unstable joints, muscle weakness or vision problems, neurological conditions (e.g., Parkinson’s) or even certain medications.
Your doctor will need to start assessing you by reviewing your medical history and running some physical and neurological tests, to make a proper diagnosis and offer appropriate treatment.
The tests that are normally used may include:
Blood pressure and heart rate tests which are standard primary tests.
Imaging tests, e.g., MRI and CT scans to determine if underlying medical issues are the cause of the balance problem.
Hearing tests to determine vestibular problems.
Posturography tests to check body posture for imbalance issues.
Electronystagmography and videonystagmography tests are visual tests to detect eye movements.
Rotary chair test is another test where the patient sits in a computer-controlled chair that moves in a circular motion, and the patient’s eye movements are analyzed.
Treatments to improve balance
Doctors will offer treatment options depending on the individual patient’s condition, and treatments can include the following:
Balance retraining exercises
Your doctor will recommend that you work with a qualified physiotherapist. Physiotherapy can help sharpen a person’s balance skills, as it trains you to be more aware of your movements and surroundings, strengthens your muscles and makes your joints more flexible, which should improve your reaction time.
Depending on your condition, you will be exposed to different environments and ways in which you can react to a sudden situation, e.g., how to place your hands in front of you to break a fall or how to manage your weight on one foot. This form of therapy will also help you be physically active.
If you are diagnosed with BPPV which is a form of vertigo where calcium crystals in your inner ear are dislodged from their normal position, your doctor may recommend canalith repositioning treatment which should be done by a qualified therapist.
Here again, your doctor will advise you to make changes in your diet and lifestyle, e.g., decrease your salt intake, avoid alcohol, etc. Exercises like yoga and Pilates are good as they focus a lot on balance.
Your doctor can prescribe medication for vertigo to control dizziness and possibly nausea.
This is an option that a doctor should discuss with the individual.
We hope this general information on good balance is informative to our readers. Please note that this information is not to be taken as medical advice, and readers should consult a qualified doctor for proper medical advice, especially those with current medical issues.
13th August 19:50 2020