Balance and Difficulty Walking
There are many different disorders and conditions that can contribute to difficulty with walking. Walking requires an incredibly complex interaction between the nervous system, muscles and posture of the body. Without these components, your ability to walk is compromised.
Many people do not realize how badly compromised their balance is or their limitations with walking, until they are quite degraded. It is often the fall, trip or loss of balance that is the wake up call to poor balance. In addition, the loss of being able to walk distances is a clear indicator that the balance and walking mechanisms are disrupted. Walking not only requires good balance, but the ability to know where your joints are in space (proprioception), and the ability to know how your joints are moving (kinesthesia), as well as good range of motion and strength.
As we age, with declining activity, or after an injury, walking and balancing can become difficult. With previous injuries, pain or neurological disorders, our walking pattern can also change. When walking patterns change, abnormal stresses and strains with everyday activities can be transmitted to areas it shouldn’t. For example, if you have knee pain and you begin to limp, the opposite hip and your spine now have to take double the weight. This can lead to pain and dysfunction in those areas. The good news is that if you have difficulty walking, you can be helped. Physical therapists are the experts uniquely trained to do so.
How therapy helps
One of the main specialties of physical therapy is helping people to walk normally. This takes a thorough evaluation of your walking patterns, posture, range of motion, strength, balance and coordination. Through this analysis, a treatment plan is then developed that will address your range of motion, pain, coordination, balance and strength. The end result is the ability to walk without the need of an assistive device such as a cane or walker, safely and smoothly. In cases with progressive diseases such as ALS, Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease, physical therapy is critical to maintaining function, independence and walking as long as possible. If your balance or walking is not what it used to be, call us today at N.Chesterfield, VA Center to discover how we can help you walk better!
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system and the ability to coordinate movement in the body. Since Parkinson’s Disease affects many areas of the brain, symptoms can vary in individuals and progression can be either mild, moderate or aggressive. Parkinson’s Disease typically affects one’s ability to walk with slower movements (bradykinesia) and difficulty with starting or stopping walking. In addition, movements tend to become slower along with tremors that may occur in the hands. Muscles can become quite rigid, leading to loss of motion and poor posture. A dangerous symptom is called retropulsion, where the tendency of an individual is to fall backwards with little to no ability to protect oneself.
Speech can also be affected with Parkinson’s Disease becoming slurred and slow due to poor activation of the mouth, tongue and throat muscles. In addition, eating and drinking can become challenging due to difficulty with swallowing. Symptoms may also include difficulty with writing, becoming illegible or very small.
How therapy helps
Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy are essential therapies for people with Parkinson’s Disease. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease currently, a tremendous amount can be done to improve one’s function and maintain gains. In coordination with your physician, rehabilitation focuses on improving movement, safety, independence with activities, transfers, cognitive and speech / swallowing. Physical therapists focus on improving range of motion, strength, stamina, safety with transfers from low surfaces, posture and movement in patients with Parkinson’s.
Occupational therapists focus on movements of the upper extremities, cognitive improvements, coordination with dressing and caring for oneself, and adaptions to be independent as possible with daily living activities. Speech therapists focus on improving speech, safety with eating / drinking, cognitive abilities and improving writing. It is important to note that our rehabilitation professionals work together as a team to help you reach goals along with family training for attaining maximum independence.
ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurological disease that typically begins in the hands, feet and extremities, then progresses centrally. People may first discover that they have difficulty walking, tripping or poor balance. In addition, people may notice that they have weakness in their hands or legs, along with occasional muscle cramps.
As the disease progresses, it affects walking, use of the arms, speaking, swallowing and breathing muscles. While there is no cure for ALS, maintaining independence and function as long as possible is the goal of the rehabilitation team. Safety with walking and adaptation of assistive devices is critical to prevent secondary complications such as fractures from falls.
How therapy helps
Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy typically coordinate as a team of physical therapists for people with ALS, depending on their severity of symptoms and progression of the disease. Physical therapy focuses on improving and maintaining range of motion, strength, stamina, walking and balance. In addition, our physical therapists will focus on making recommendations for adaptive equipment such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, braces and other devices. The goal of physical therapy is to maintain safety with walking and independence for as long as possible.
Occupational therapists focus on helping ALS patients with their upper extremity use, working on strength, stamina, range of motion and function. Recommendations for adaptive equipment with grasping, reaching and writing are part of care. In addition, training and adaptation of daily living activities, such as dressing, eating, cooking and work are modified as needed.
Speech therapists focus on the muscles of the throat, mouth and tongue as well as breathing. All this can help maintain safety with eating / drinking and improve the ability to communicate. Speech therapy also focuses on making adaptations for speech, communicating, eating and drinking.
Although ALS is a progressive disease, the use of physical, occupational and speech therapy can make a big difference in your quality of life, maintaining independence and function for as long as possible. For more information, Contact us at Chesterfield, Midlothian & Richmond, VA Centers.