Physical Therapy For Gait And Balance Disorders In Older People

As you age, the chances of falls increase, which is the common cause of mortality and morbidity. But do you know that gait and balance disorders are the key reasons for falls? 

The US population of people 65 years of age and older is expected to double by 2050. This age range will increase the probability of having gait and balance issues. However, many physical therapy techniques prevent gait and balance disorders in older people. Head down below to find out more about this! 

What Causes Gait and Balance Disorders in Older People

There are many reasons for gait and balance issues in the older population. The most common causes are arthritis and orthostatic hypotension. However, multifactorial reasons contribute to these issues in about 75% of the population, manifesting as limited range of motion, decreased strength, pain, postural changes, impaired environmental awareness, or impaired sensory perception. 

Conditions that are responsible for causing gait and balance disorders include: 

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Some of the musculoskeletal disorders include:

  • Arthritis
  • Amputation
  • Muscular contractures 
  • Muscle weakness or atrophy 
  • Gout 

Neurological Disorders

Some of the neurological disorders include:

  • Stroke
  • Dementia 
  • Alzheimer’s 
  • Parkinson
  • Guillain- barre syndrome 
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neuropathy or radiculopathy 
  • Myelopathy 

Cardiopulmonary Disorder:

Some of cardiopulmonary disorders include:

  • Arrhythmia 
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Congestive heart failure 
  • Coronary artery disease 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder 

Metabolic Disorders

Here are a few metabolic disorders: 

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Obesity
  • Hyper/hypothyroidism 
  • Vit B12 deficiency 
  • Hepatic encephalopathy

Many psychiatric disorders and medications like diuretics, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, or antiarrhythmics also cause gait and balance problems. 

How to Diagnose Gait and Balance Disorders in Older People

Undiagnosed gait and balance disorder leads to severe injuries like falls, which are the second cause of mortality in the world population. Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate gait and balance in a person at risk of falling. 

To diagnose the underlying causes of gait and balance problems, a detailed medical history, physical examination, and gait and balance performance tests are conducted. 

Some medical conditions have characteristic signs and symptoms of gait and balance disorder. 

For example, if: 

  • You have a wide stance with an unstable trunk and walk like a drunken man; it may be a sign of cerebellar disorder. 
  • Bradycardia, tremors, and rigidity accompany a less steady walk with reduced arm movements and small steps; it may be due to Parkinson’s disease. 
  • You notice a walking pattern that includes the affected leg dragging in a semicircle to move forward and the affected arm supported by another, then, this gait pattern reflects stroke. 
  • Foot drop is accompanied by excessive hip and knee flexion while walking with short strides; it may be due to neuropathy. 
  • You have a gait pattern in which the stance phase is shorter than the swing phase, and you notice a limp while walking; it may be due to osteoarthritis. 
  • You notice someone walking with lumbar lordosis, a wide-based stance, and walking on toes that may be due to muscular dystrophy or myopathy. 

If you are struggling with a balance disorder, then you may experience dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, blurred vision, or vertigo. 

Physiotherapy For Gait And Balance Disorders In Older People

Since the majority of the older population experience gait and balance issues due to multiple factors, they require various modes of treatment that can improve and maintain their functional capacity. 

However, gait and balance physical therapy can improve the quality of life to a greater extent. 

Physical therapy strategies work on the following factors to improve your gait and balance.

Promote mobility

Physical therapy helps older people to move around with ease and coordination. This promotes confidence and restores movement skills. 

Increase strength

Physical therapy improves muscle strength by planning a treatment program that may involve resistance training to help build overall strength, specifically in the trunk. 

Improve posture

Bad posture may cause issues with balance. Physiotherapy techniques, which involve stretching tight muscles and strengthening weak muscles, can improve this. 

Decrease fall risks

The chances of falling are reduced if you have proper proprioceptive awareness. Therefore, physical therapy includes techniques that can help you improve proprioception, balance, and coordination. 

Gait Training Physical Therapy

Gait training is a physical therapy that improves standing and walking skills. It involves a step-by-step approach in which patients initially walk with support and then proceed towards independent walking. It helps you regain muscle memory after any injury or stroke. Walking is a type of gait training. 

However, there are also other rehab exercises to walk again. Some of them are mentioned below: 

  • Heel raise: It is one of the most desired exercises because it strengthens the calf muscles and improves blood circulation in the lower extremities.
  • Toe raise: It strengthens the shin and the ankle.
  • Knee to chest: It builds strength in the quadriceps and hip flexor muscles.
  • One-leg standing: It improves your balance. 
  • Heel-to-toe walk: It also helps in improving balance and coordination 
  • Marching: It strengthens the core muscles and improves balance and aerobic capacity.  

Gait training requires strengthening to walk again. Therefore, consult a physical therapist for a proper treatment protocol that targets and trains individual muscles.

Although the above-mentioned exercises seem very simple, you should be cautious while performing them. It is recommended that you perform them under the supervision of a physical therapist to prevent the risk of injury or fall. 

Where To Get Effective Physical Therapy for Gait and Balance Disorders In Older People In NYC:

At MOCEAN Wellness Center in NYC, our experienced physical therapists plan proper exercise regimes to treat gait and balance problems. 

We offer integrated physical therapy that heals physical issues and addresses psychological components. We also offer cupping therapy, cryo chamber cold therapy, and red light therapy, which promotes blood circulation and is essential for strengthening muscles and reducing inflammation or pain. 

The Bottom Line

Gait and balance training are crucial in older people, especially those at risk of falls. Therefore, it is important to diagnose the underlying cause of gait and balance issues and get prompt treatment. Physical therapy improves the quality of life by treating most gait and balance disorders in older people. 

So, book your appointment right away at MOCEAN Longevity Center in NYC to receive the most reliable and effective physical therapy services! 



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