Gait and balance disorders encompass a wide variety of functional problems that affect an individual’s normal means of walking, positional awareness, and ability to steadily stand upright. Gait disorders typically affect how a patient moves, and balance disorders cause a sensation of moving while standing still. While there are subtle differences in these disorders, gait and balance are deeply connected.
Symptoms of a gait or balance disorder can include:
- Feeling of unsteadiness
- Falling without warning
- Difficulty standing
- Sensation of spinning
- Pain in hips, knees, and/or other joints while walking or moving in specific ways
What Causes Gait and Balance Disorders?
Gait and balance disorders can stem from physical and/or mental causations. Various underlying neurological, neuromuscular, or musculoskeletal conditions can be contributing factors to unsteadiness and dizziness which cause balance problems. Equilibrium involves not only the feet, but many other parts of the body including:
- Inner ear
- Nervous system
- Cognitive functions
Many gait and balance disorders are connected to problems within the vestibular system, the delicate collection of chambers and nerves in the inner ear along with thousands of nerve receptors throughout the body. Common causes of gait and balance disorders include:
- Neurological problems such as those that accompany Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or brain injury
- BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo)
- Muscle weakness from an injury or ailment
- Musculoskeletal disorders or problems
Physical Therapy for Gait and Balance Disorders
The physical therapists at Physical Therapy and Vestibular Rehabilitation Fort Worth can provide effective treatments and techniques for improving your gait and balance. At your initial consultation, your experienced therapist will thoroughly evaluate your medical history and symptoms, as well as your gait, balance, stance, strength, and posture.
Functional tests may be conducted to determine foot placement, step style, and walking pace. A personalized treatment plan will be created for your unique needs.
Customized physical therapy plans may include:
- Vestibular rehabilitation: Specific exercises to improve BPPV symptoms and the functionality of the nerves, muscles, vision, and complex vestibular system
- Gait retraining: Exercises focusing on proper techniques of walking/running, often through the use of a treadmill
- Targeted strengthening exercises: Improving muscular strength to reduce the risk of falling and injury
- Stretching: To increase flexibility and range of motion, as well as provide more control and quicker reaction time
The benefits of gait and balance training at Physical Therapy and Vestibular Rehabilitation Fort Worth are far more than improving balance and gait. Therapy goals also include:
- Reduce injuries and the risk of falling
- Improve joint flexibility
- Strengthen weakened muscles
- Relieve pain
- Improve reflexes
- Increase confidence in footing
- Improve posture
Our physical therapist will continuously monitor your progress, and periodic adjustments in your treatment plan will be made as you improve.
Some common gait disorders we treat include:
- Scissors gait (common in patients with spastic cerebral palsy)
- Propulsive gait (often seen in Parkinson’s patients)
- Steppage gait (can be caused by peroneal muscle atrophy or peroneal nerve injury which can occur with spinal problems such as spinal stenosis or a herniated disc)
- Spastic gait (frequently occurring in patients with cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis)
- Waddling gait (progressive muscular dystrophy or congenital hip dislocation can be contributing factors)
If you are experiencing problems with gait and/or balance, please contact the skilled therapists at Physical Therapy and Vestibular Rehabilitation Fort Worth for an evaluation. Our comprehensive and individualized treatment plans can help restore your balance and gait and give you the confidence to enjoy everyday activities again.