Your Body in Balance: March 26, 2011

Ever have day where you just feel . . . off? It may not be in your head, there could be some physical reasons as to why you feel unbalanced. ((Just turn all the way around? Yep. 1,2,3,4. She took four steps. You dizzy or off balance? No. Good."))

At the Balance Clinic, Lee Memorial Health System physical therapist Nathalie Grondin works with people to see what could be causing the problem. The first: the medicine cabinet. "In fact, a lot of the medication people are given actually can hinder balance."

Next, it's on to head, ear, and eye coordination. Just one small hiccup in the way these three work together could be a warning that something is not right. "People with inner ear problems have issues with what's called gaze-stabiliazation. They start moving and for a second things are not in focus. What do they do? They realize that's no comfortable and they stop moving their head."

Nathalie then measures muscle strength. "One thing that's really important, especially as we get older, is we start losing some strength. We don't challenge ourselves enough and there are actually physiological changes if you will that could lead to loss of strength. But if we stay active, and if we continue exercising, we can actually bypass that issue."

Therapists also use this balance machine to test a person's reflexes when faced with uneven surfaces and instability. These results could reveal if a person is at risk of a fall in the future. "It's something we take for granted. We don't pay attention until we start having a problem with it."

By undergoing a simple balance screening, therapists can recommend exercises or deploy other tactics to improve balance and prevent unnecessary falls.