Balance retraining is a type of physical therapy designed to improve a patient’s steadiness and decrease his or her risk of falling, a major cause of injuries among the elderly and individuals who have inner ear vertigo. Also known as vestibular rehabilitation, balance retraining can promote recovery from chronic dizziness or imbalances caused by changes in the body’s vestibular system.
Balance and coordination problems often result from infection, trauma, Meniere’s disease or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Lack of balance can also be due to age-related changes in the musculoskeletal system or neurological system. For adults aged 60 to 69, normal single-leg balance time is 22.5 seconds with eyes open and 10.2 seconds with eyes closed. For adults aged 70 to 79, normal single-leg balance time is 14.2 seconds with eyes open and 4.3 seconds with eyes closed.
What does balance retraining involve?
The experienced physical therapists at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, work closely with each patient to develop a tailored balance retraining program. We begin with a thorough evaluation of the patient’s balance, posture, gait and compensatory strategies. Based on the results of this assessment, we develop quantifiable goals for the patient and recommend specific exercises to achieve them, which may include:
- Vestibular adaptation exercises – Specific movements and body positions that result in dizziness are safely repeated until the patient’s brain adapts to the conflicting information transmitted by his or her brain and inner ear.
- Visual motor exercises – Because the ear nerve is directly connected to the eye muscles, inner ear vertigo may affect a patient’s ability to maintain his or her gaze and focus. Certain exercises can help stabilize and improve a patient’s eye/head coordination.
- Canalith repositioning procedures (for BPPV) – This maneuver involves moving a patient’s head through a sequence of positions, each of which is held for a specified amount of time. The goal is to restore the small calcium crystals (otoconia) in the patient’s inner ear to their proper positions.
- Balance retraining exercises – Specific exercises are performed to coordinate muscle responses and organize the sensory information generated by the patient’s eyes, ears and tactile/muscle receptors.
- Strengthening exercises – Weight training and aerobic exercises are performed to strengthen the patient’s core and leg muscles to help keep his or her body upright and stable.
It is important to understand that it can take time to recalibrate the body’s balance system. Usually, balance retraining exercises must be performed consistently for several weeks before results become apparent. Additionally, dizziness and balance issues often seem to worsen before they improve.
If you are interested in learning more about balance retraining, contact Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston to request an appointment. In the state of Texas, a physician’s referral is not required for an initial consultation with a physical therapist.