Are balance disorders a big deal? You bet they are.
Dr. Jeff Ladinsky, a physical therapist at CORA Physical Therapy in Spartanburg, said dizziness, along with loss of balance, is the third most common complaint to physicians by patients older than 65.
“It is estimated that we have spent over $50 billion on treatment for loss of balance in the United States in 2018 alone,” he said.
According to Dr. Ladinsky, balance deterioration is not simply a symptom of aging. Rather, he said it is due to decreasing levels of activity, pointing out that “inactivity causes the balance system to weaken, much like a muscle that isn’t used.”
Physical therapists often treat balance disorders, which can frequently affect normal motion and limit a person’s activities of daily living. Thanks to therapists such as Dr. Ladinsky, however, those who suffer with balance impairments no longer have to learn to live with this problem due to vestibular rehabilitation programs, which provide an alternative management strategy. Physical therapists have become key members of the evaluation and rehabilitation team for patients with motion intolerance and balance disorders.
“Balance is actually a complicated function maintained by signals the brain receives from the eyes, muscles, joints and from the inner ear, which contain semicircular canals filled with moving fluid,” Dr. Ladinsky explained.
Eye movements give the brain visual information such as surface conditions, depth perception and reports on other external influences that may affect a person’s position. Head movements stimulate the inner ear by moving the fluid through the canals, thus sending messages to the brain about the position and movement of the head in relation to being upright. Lastly, the sense of touch and pressure sensors in the lower extremity joints relay information regarding body position. The brain interprets these signals, and then sends orders to the eyes and muscles to properly respond to all this information.
“Impairments in one or more of these sensory systems could mean difficulty in assuming and maintaining normal equilibrium in our never-ending battle against gravity,” Dr. Ladinsky said.
Balance disorders can be effectively addressed through a program of movements in vestibular rehabilitation therapy. Covered by Medicare and most insurance policies, vestibular rehabilitation involves special head and body movements and exercises to help a patient with a balance disorder deal with the problem to diminish recurrent symptoms.
The treatment includes a home-exercise program custom-designed for each patient; it includes exercises such as lying down on one’s side then returning to a sitting position. The exercises must be carefully monitored by a physical therapist because too much activity too soon can be counterproductive.
“Vestibular rehabilitation may not be for everyone. Some inner ear disorders may possibly require medication or surgery. However, research studies have shown the success rate of this specialized treatment has made it one of the fastest-growing areas of physical therapy,” Dr. Ladinsky concluded.
For more information, contact CORA Physical Therapy – Spartanburg at 864-699-0418 or visit www.coraphysicaltherapy.com.