Have you ever sat somewhere and had someone blatantly bump into you? Chances are there may be something going on with that person’s balance and they are not intending to be rude.
I sat in an airport last week for the first time in 7 months. I placed myself in a very remote area of the terminal so I could watch my gate but not be near anyone. I was startled when a lady bumped into me as she walked out to the center aisle. How annoying that she would run into my leg and not offer an apology! Then I noticed that she was side-stepping every time she turned her head. As I watched more closely, I saw that she reached out to the pillars that line the walkway and about every third step was unstable. As she returned to her seat she hit the back of my computer on her way by.
Was she being rude? More likely she was bouncing side to side through the airport to keep herself from falling. We sometimes call this “pin-balling” and see it in patients who walk through their homes touching every wall to keep stable and upright. They have developed a strategy for reducing the risk of falling. She needed me to be a piece of furniture.
This is far too common in the older population and is evident in the staggering number of falls that result in trauma and even death. The CDC says that 1 in 5 falls results in a serious injury like a broken bone or a head injury (CDC, 2020). But hope is not lost – therapy can help! We work on the many causes of balance trouble:
- Weakness- weakness of the leg and trunk muscles cause instability and fatigue
- Numbness – numbness in the feet cause difficulty in gripping uneven surfaces
- Vertigo- vertigo is caused by inner ear problems that lead to dizziness
- Post-surgical conditions- foot, ankle, knee, and hip surgery can cause instability
- Pain- pain makes all movement harder!
Help us help those that you love. If you have a family member who has a balance issue please reach out to a therapist who can help. You can find our locations and more information about fall prevention from our friends at PT&Me.
CDC. Older adult fall prevention (2020). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html on October 30, 2020.