When an injury interferes with your ability to function normally during the tasks of your day-to-day life, the discomfort of that injury is compounded, leaving you with emotional distress in addition to physical stress and discomfort. Gait and balance disorders are a frequent cause of this sort of discomfort.
What Are Gait and Balance Disorders?
There are a lot of injuries that can trigger a balance or gait disorder, from foot and ankle injuries to concussions and head or neck injuries. The ability to balance and hold yourself without issue is a full-body effort, requiring the support of your inner ears and eyes, your muscles and joints, your nervous system and last but not least, your cognitive function.
Whether impacted by a heart attack or stroke, affected by surgical complications, afflicted by illness or coping with the lingering pain following an injury, finding support for your balance and gait can improve your quality of life by allowing you peace of mind as you go about your regular business.
Causes of Gait and Balance Disorders
Physical therapy for balance and gait disorders targets the problematic areas that are causing one or more bodily systems to disrupt your comfort and equilibrium. Proper gait and balance require all aspects of the body to function in harmony. By targeting weaker muscles or joints and using specialized techniques to improve muscle memory, it is possible to improve balance and restore a healthy gait.
The goal of gait training is to improve leg or foot movement to increase stability, which directly improves your ability to balance. There are a lot of factors that could influence your gait. Weakened muscles from injuries are one of the most common causes of gait disorders, but there are plenty of other neurological causes that could disrupt your gait. The goal of physical therapy is to target the cause of the dysfunction and restore strength and functionality, thereby providing increased balance and improved gait.
Because of the impact that your gait has on your ability to walk or run, your gait and ability to balance are frequently intertwined. An injury to one ankle could cause you to favor one foot, which may impact your balance even after the ankle injury is recovered. Often, the original injury has little to do with what is holding you back, but the lingering effects and the developed habit of depending on one side more than another can have a lasting impact long after the pain subsided.
How Physical Therapy Helps Balance and Gait Disorders
While it may seem overwhelming to engage in therapy to alter the way that you walk or your ability to balance yourself, this is a very common form of physical therapy that is largely successful. After a series of diagnostic, imaging, and functioning tests, your physical therapist will develop a program that is suited perfectly to your body’s needs.
This will typically involve addressing issues with your strength and posture, which could be influencing your gait. Additional strategies that are often employed with balance training include making changes to footwear, often incorporating custom orthotics to address underlying balance and gait concerns, as well as stretches to improve flexibility, recommendations to improve balance during dizzy spells to prevent further injury, and targeted exercises to build strength in specific regions of the body.
By working with a physical therapist, it is possible to walk again without depending on a cane or walker. You can say goodbye to regular discomfort and feel comfortable on your own two feet again without the constant threat of losing your balance. For more information about gait training and balance therapy, contact us.