September 22, 2022
Balance Problems in Seniors: Causes and Treatment Options
Even though people’s balance begins to decline between the ages of 40 and 50, most older adults don’t think twice about their balance until they take an unexpected fall. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “one in four older adults over 65 will fall each year in the United States.”
Here’s some good news: You can take action to prevent balance problems as you age. Understanding the causes of balance problems and available treatment options can help you stay steady on your feet.
Common causes of balance problems in seniors
Your gait and balance are affected by your musculoskeletal system, neurological system, and multiple sensory inputs.
Some medical issues that cause gait and balance issues include sprains, tendinitis, and bone fractures, as well as neurological issues such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Sensory issues such as inner ear problems and vision problems are also commonly associated with loss of balance.
- Inner ear problems
There are three inner ear problems known to affect a person’s balance: benign positional paroxysmal vertigo (BPPV), labyrinthitis, and Meniere’s disease.
Benign positional paroxysmal vertigo (BPPV) results from loose calcium crystals that have positioned themselves in your ears’ semicircular canals. Your physician can correct this problem using the canalith repositioning procedure.
The procedure is non-invasive, painless, and takes less than 15 minutes in the office. The healthcare provider has the person complete a series of slow head and body movements to reposition the loose calcium crystals.
Labyrinthitis is often treated with motion-sickness medications to stop feelings of dizziness and methylprednisolone to lessen the inflammation in the inner ear. If symptoms aren’t severe, some people might choose to wait out the symptoms. However, this isn’t recommended for older adults. In some cases, vestibular rehabilitation is recommended.
Meniere’s disease is considered a chronic disease with treatable symptoms to make going about your daily functions easier. If you’ve been diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, physicians recommend water pills, salt-restrictive diets, and eating and drinking small meals throughout the day to regulate bodily fluids that affect balance. The medication meclizine may be prescribed to prevent vertigo.
- Sudden low blood pressure
Some medications can affect your blood pressure, making it drop suddenly, causing you to lose your balance. Doing the following can help you avoid sudden drops in blood pressure:
- Increasing daily fluid intake
- Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption
- Getting up slowly from a sitting or prone position
Fall prevention exercises
If you haven’t been diagnosed with any conditions known to affect balance but are still having problems, consider adding balance exercises into your daily routine.
The following four exercises are easy to do at home and work to support your body’s natural alignment.
- Single leg balance: Hold onto a chair and raise one leg at a time in front of your body. Hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Tree pose: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold onto a chair. Raise your leg and gently position your right foot on your left thigh. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side. If it’s too difficult to get the foot to the thigh, rest it against the opposite leg’s ankle.
- Tightrope walk: Walk from one side of the room to the other with your arms out to the side as a tightrope walker does. Walk from heel to toe, allowing each movement to take no less than five seconds.
- Lunges: Practicing this movement strengthens the muscles needed to help you regain your balance when you step forward. Place your hands on your hips, lift your right knee, shift forward, and place the right foot in front of you without moving your left. Repeat on the other side. Do this up to 10 times for each leg.
As an older adult, you want to keep your body supple to prevent falls. If you’re concerned about your balance, consult with your physician to rule out any underlying medical conditions and learn about exercises that can help you maintain your independence and lifestyle. Springpoint Living at Manalapan is where older adults will find person-centered living that enriches each day, celebrates shared experiences, and fosters friendships. Contact us to find out more.