Balance therapy is also called vestibular rehabilitation therapy. Vestibular disorders refer to problems of the inner ear and the sense of balance which is controlled by the inner ear. Balance therapy is applied to improve the primary problems caused by the vestibular disorders, such as dizziness, vertigo, gaze instability, falls, and imbalance. It is also applied to related secondary disorders, such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and inability to concentrate. These problems can affect the day-to-day functioning of those suffering from it, which in turn can lead to emotional distress, depression, and anxiety. It also pushes patients towards a sedentary lifestyle for fear of aggravating the vestibular disorders upon making more movements.
Balance therapy is used to treat these problems and is primarily an exercise-based physical therapy program. This includes customized exercises being prescribed to patients, keeping in mind their specific vestibular problem. Further, balance therapy consists of three principles that are applied depending on the patient’s problem. These include—
- Gaze Stabilization
- Balance Training
Habituation exercises are recommended to alleviate dizziness symptoms that are caused by self-motion or visual stimuli. For instance, certain patients experience dizziness because of sudden movements, like turning the head around suddenly. Moving the position of the head, as when bending over or looking up over the head to view objects, also results in the symptoms. Habituation exercises make patients repeat the movements that cause dizziness slowly, but in a continuous fashion until the patient’s brain feels that these movements are normal. Thus, after several repeated exposures, the patient becomes habituated to the movement and dizziness does not occur.
Gaze Stabilization involves exercises that improve the patient’s control over eye movements when trying to move the head so that objects appear clearly and vision is not blurred. This exercise is for patients who experience a bouncing or jumping around of images when they move, especially when reading or when seated in a vehicle or moving around. The exercises help to stabilize the gaze during head movements, thus minimizing blurred vision and thereby reducing the chances of falling.
Balance Training involves exercises that improve the patient’s balance and feeling of steadiness. This will, in turn, help patients carry out daily activities without the risk of falling.
Balance therapy reduces the chances of falling
The exercises that are designed in balance therapy help patients improve their balance through various dynamic and stationary movements, via visual cues, through strategies involving coordinated movements, and by performing dual tasks. Slowly the body overcomes feelings of dizziness while performing sudden movements that had acted as stimuli, such as bending, standing, walking, turning, and reaching out for things. Also, the therapy trains patients in outdoor uneven surfaces and in the dark too, so that after the therapy patients can carry out tasks without the risk of falling.
Thus, balance therapy reduces the risk of falling by—
- Reducing spells of dizziness.
- Improving stability while in motion.
- Reducing dependency on somatosensory and visual inputs to make movements.
- Improving neuromuscular coordination.
- Decreasing anxiety caused due to vestibular disorders.
Thus, these approaches contribute to reduced chances of falling.