Are you adjusting the way you walk because you’re afraid you’ll lose your balance and fall? According to the New England Research Institutes, the fear of falling is a recognized public health problem that affects 30-50% of older adults. The CDC notes that one of every three people 65 years and older falls each year, resulting in direct costs of more than $20 billion, and a greater loss of quality of life. People of all ages and health conditions may be at a higher risk for falling for different reasons. But people who survived a stroke or have other issues with balance, mobility or dizziness may be at a much higher risk for falling.

If you are avoiding physical activity due to your fears of falling, ask your doctor for a carefully monitored exercise program, and a physical therapist who can create a custom exercise program to improve your balance, flexibility, muscle strength and gait.

Individualized approaches with specialists in balance and vestibular (inner ear) issues at places such as Beachwood Ohio's Peter B. Lewis Aquatic & Therapy Center (LAC) focus on fall prevention. To reduce the risk of a fall and of injury and to improve your ability to be an active member of your community you will benefit from meeting with a licensed physical therapists who uses several tests and measures to identify what makes each individual have a higher fall risk. Your personal therapist then tailors an individual plan for you to reduce that fall risk. These tests may include simple every day tasks such as standing up from a chair, walking, turning without holding on to support, or the used of advanced technology such as the NeuroCom Smart Balance Master system to pinpoint the problem, then provide an individualized therapy program with quantifiable measures of improvement.

According to Eran Shiloh, Licensed Physical Therapist and Balance Specialists at LAC, “Balance issues can be complex, making it difficult to understand exactly where the problem lies. It could be visual, the eyes telling the brain how the body is oriented in relation to surrounding objects; vestibular, fluid-filled canals in the ear acting much like a carpenter’s level sending information about head movement to the brain or, somatosensory, specialized nerve cells in joints and muscles that sense the position of the entire body. By selecting the appropriate tests, our therapists objectively determine specific areas of ability and limitation,” he said. “The Balance Master system assists in identifying the strong and weak components of our balance reaction. In other words what is working well and what needs some practice and improvement, the visual, sensory, motor, or the coordination of all 3 components are tested and functional problems identified. The system also enables us to clearly communicate treatment progress, because it provides concrete measures,” he stated.

The system includes interactive technology with instant biofeedback, which is displayed on a computer screen to guide and prompt clients during rehabilitation. An icon that follows exactly how a task is being performed represents the client’s movements. Targets may appear on the computer screen as the patient practices controlling their posture, and balance. The goal is to be able to reach the practice targets by shifting weight, learning how to coordinate the movement of the ankles, knees, hips, torso, and arms, using the feedback on the screen much like a video game. The therapist designs targets to encourage specific movements by the patient, thereby helping to build physical stability, endurance and confidence. Clients can immediately see how they are performing and self-correct, while therapists assist in real-time. Clients can quickly regain as much ability as possible, and learn strategies to manage their condition on their own. From diagnosis to treatment, the program provides peace of mind, and concrete solutions to their specific issues related to balance.

While you should begin by making an appointment with your doctor, other steps to reduce your balance issues may include:

· Wearing the right well-fitting, non-slip shoes

· Using non-slip shower and bathtub mats

· Clearing home hazards such as loose rugs, clutter and protruding furniture

· Lighting your living space better, including hallways, stairwells and closets

· With your doctor’s permission, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or Tai Chi, a gentle exercise that involves slow and graceful movements. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.

For more information, or to make an appointment for your free balance screening, contact the Peter B. Lewis Aquatic & Therapy Center at 216-595-7345.

Author's Bio: 

Sherry Gavanditti has more than 30 years as a writer, designer, and public relations media specialist.