As a Physical Therapist working in the Phoenix, Arizona area, I see so many clients that have Gait and Balance Disorders. Here is some information and some ways to help.
Gait and balance disorders are common in older adults and are a major cause of falls in this population. They are associated with increased morbidity and mortality, as well as reduced level of function. Common causes include arthritis and orthostatic hypotension; however, most gait and balance disorders involve multiple contributing factors. Most changes in gait are related to underlying medical conditions and should not be considered an inevitable consequence of aging. Physicians caring for older patients should ask at least annually about falls, and should ask about or examine for difficulties with gait and balance at least once. For older adults who report a fall, physicians should ask about difficulties with gait and balance, and should observe for any gait or balance dysfunctions. The Timed Up and Go test is a fast and reliable diagnostic tool. Persons who have difficulty or demonstrate unsteadiness performing the Timed Up and Go test require further assessment, usually with a physical therapist, to help elucidate gait impairments and related functional limitations. The most effective strategy for falls prevention involves a multifactorial evaluation followed by targeted interventions for identified contributing factors. Evidence on the effectiveness of interventions for gait and balance disorders is limited because of the lack of standardized outcome measures determining gait and balance abilities. However, effective options for patients with gait and balance disorders include exercise and physical therapy.
Gait dysfunctions are changes in your normal walking pattern, often related to a disease or abnormality in different areas of the body. Gait dysfunctions are among the most common causes of falls in older adults, accounting for approximately 17% of falls. This guide will help you better understand how gait dysfunctions are categorized, and how treatment by a physical therapist can help you regain a healthy gait. Physical therapists are experts at identifying the root causes of gait dysfunctions, and designing treatments that restore gait.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
Physical therapists play a vital role in helping individuals improve their gait. Your physical therapist will work with you to develop a treatment plan to help address your specific needs and goals. Your physical therapist will design an individualized program to treat your specific condition.
The treatment strategy may include:
Pre-Gait Training. Your physical therapist may begin your treatment by having you perform activities and exercises that will help you understand how to improve your gait, without taking a single step. These exercises may include simple activities, such as having you stand and lift your leg in place, to more complex strategies like stepping in place and initiating contact with your heel to the ground, prior to other portions of the foot.
Gait Training. Your physical therapist will help you focus on retraining the way you walk. Because the underlying condition may be vestibular, neurological, or muscular, variations in the training exist. Your physical therapist will design the safest and best training for your specific condition.
Balance and Coordination Training. Your physical therapist may prescribe balance activities for you to perform to help stabilize your walking pattern.
Neuromuscular Reeducation. Your physical therapist may employ neuromuscular reeducation techniques to activate any inactive muscle groups that may be affecting your gait.
Bracing or Splinting. If the gait dysfunction is due to significant weakness or paralysis of a ligament, your physical therapist may teach you how to use adaptive equipment, like a brace or splint, to help you move.
At Integrative Therapy and Wellness, LLC, our team comes to you and to wherever you call home. We provide you with a full Physical Therapy Evaluation, goal setting and therapy visits just for you to help you meet your goals. Contact Kim Jacob at firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
Thank you for reading,
Kim Jacob, PT, CNDT, BCST