Balance Awareness Week
Balance Awareness Week (BAW) takes place annually in September. This year it’s being held from 18-24 September 2022. The aim of the week is to broaden understanding of vestibular (inner ear) disorders and how they affect people’s day to day lives. Those who are affected by balance issues often report that their family, friends and colleagues don’t understand what they’re going through due to the hidden nature of this condition. Many people haven’t even heard of these conditions.
So, what is the vestibular system?
The vestibular system is the balance organ in the ear responsible for maintaining balance, posture and the body’s orientation in space. It is made up of three semi-circular canals and two structures called otoliths. The organ of hearing (cochlea) is also in your inner ear. The balance system works by coordinating information in the brain for the three senses used for balance: the eyes, the balance organ in the inner ear and the body’s internal sense of balance. If there is vertigo (severe dizziness) it means the brain has not been able to properly coordinate information from the balance senses. As the balance organ is faulty the brain becomes more dependent on information coming from the eyes and sensors in the body. (Source)
Examples of vestibular conditions:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
- Endolymphatic hydrops
- Mal de debarquement syndrome (MdDS)
- Ménière’s disease/syndrome
- Perilymph fistula
- Persistent Postural-Perceptual Dizziness (PPPD)
- Superior semicircular canal dehiscence
- Vestibular migraine
- Vestibular neuritis
How Can Physical Therapy Help?
Physical therapists use a number of objective measures to determine an individual’s fall risk. With the initial evaluation the PT will focus on ROM, muscle strength, and vestibular testing. Physical therapist’s will also look at foot/ankle strength, stability, and any other weakness around the hip and ankle. Your clinician will also ask for any history of falls and any environmental hazards you encounter in the community and at home. The clinician will then develop a plan of care and treatment approach based on the findings from the evaluation. This plan can include but not limited to gait training, balance retraining, therapeutic exercises, education, and manual therapy.
Ways to Reduce Fall Risk at Home
- Remove any fall hazards in your home such as throw rugs
- Good lighting especially at night (night lights)
- Move slow and steady as needed
- Footwear with good tread (grip socks, tennis shoes, etc.)
If you or a loved one are interested in vestibular rehab please give our team a call at 419.866.0555!