Loss of Balance
Imbalance means the inability to keep your balance, especially when standing or walking. Loss of balance or equilibrium is a symptom not a diagnosis. There are many reasons why you might lose your balance. Imbalance accompanied by dizziness is a symptom of most vestibular disorders and many other disorders. In some conditions, however, imbalance may not be accompanied by dizziness. The most common causes of imbalance result from dysfunction of the proprioceptive system either on the periphery (muscles, joints, peripheral nerves) or on the central nervous system control. Proprioceptive issues include:
- Carotid Sinus Syndrome
External pressure on the carotid sinus (a small bundle of nerve endings in the neck) causes a brief blackout that results in falling without warning and for no obvious reason.
- Parkinson’s Disease (PD)
Motor problems resulting from this neurological disorder include imbalance and a tendency to fall.
- Peripheral Neuropathy (PN)
Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder of the motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves. PN patients are at a greater risk of falling because numbness, decreased sensitivity to touch and muscle weakness can have significant adverse effects on their balance.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis can cause decreased muscle strength in addition to decreased proprioception, affecting balance negatively.
- Spinal Cord Injuries and Disorders
Spinal cord injuries and disorders can be congenital (such as malformations present at birth) or acquired (such as spinal cord compression).
- Vascular Dementia
May cause loss of balance in older people with no signs of memory loss.
- Weak Muscles
We lose muscle mass as we age and weakened muscles have a hard time holding us upright and in proper alignment. Quick movements, such as trying to avoid slipping on wet leaves, can throw you off balance and lead to falls.
Effects of Footwear on Gait and Balance
Summary of a talk given by pedorthist Matt Neufeld.
Evidence-Based Use of Walking Poles for Balance
Summary of a talk given by occupational therapist Mandy Shintani, co-developer of the Activator pole.