Having trouble with your balance? Physical therapy can help.
St. Joseph’s/Candler has five outpatient physical therapy locations to assist with balance, dizziness
A lot of things can impact our balance – a knee replacement, peripheral neuropathy from diabetes or just general weakness from getting older.
And when our balance is discombobulated, it can impact our quality of life. You may have trouble getting in and out of the shower. Daily tasks like laundry or walking to the mailbox may become difficult. It may keep you off the golf course or be so concerning you are worried about walking the aisles of the grocery store or going to church.
The good news is physical therapy can help you control your balance problems.
“If someone falls one time, they can become fearful and that can affect their independence and daily activities,” says Cindy Roberts, PT, physical therapist with the St. Joseph’s/Candler Outpatient Rehabilitation Center in Rincon. “Our goal is to help prevent falls because we know falls can lead to fractures, which can lead to higher morbidity rates, as well as general fear of everyday activities.”
Roberts has worked as a physical therapist at the Rincon location for nearly 15 years. She’s seen a lot of balance issues. It’s not always neurological, resulting from a stroke or Parkinson’s disease. Many times it’s a side effect of another condition, a result of trauma or surgery or a natural decline in flexibility with age.
The goal of physical therapy is to help retrain the brain and body to overcome moments of weakness and misalignment. Roberts and other St. Joseph’s/Candler physical therapists can help do this with a series of exercises and stretches. Some of the activities may seem a little odd or feel silly, Roberts says, but she assures patients it’s nothing unusual and it’s effective.
What you need to know before you start physical therapy
Before you can begin physical therapy, you will need a referral from your physician. Our outpatient rehab locations can assist with this, as well as address your insurance questions.
It’s also important that you dress comfortably for your upcoming sessions. That doesn’t mean flip flops or sandals. Roberts highly recommends a stable shoe that doesn’t further compromise your balance issues.
What to expect during a physical therapy session
Everyone’s experience will vary slightly depending on a number of factors including what’s causing their balance problems and their general health. Most patients can expect at least two, one-hour visits with a physical therapist every week for two to three months. The longer you have experienced symptoms, the longer it may take to get better.
Generally speaking, Roberts says most patients see improvements in just a few weeks.
“I’m currently treating a patient that came in because he couldn’t fish or golf anymore because he couldn’t stand on an incline or uneven surface,” Roberts says. “He did a little fishing just this past weekend and says he never could have done that even a couple of months ago.”
For patients with balance issues, Roberts does a series of stretches and exercises such as standing on balance pads or wobble boards, tossing a ball and head and trunk movements. If dizziness is also an issue, she will incorporate gaze stabilization exercises which include head and eye movements and visual tracking activities.
Patients also can expect to take some stretches and exercises home with them. Home compliance is vital to getting better sooner because there’s only so much you can do a couple hours a week in outpatient rehab.
“The exercises and stretches that are safe for them to do at home, we ask them to do at home because we want to maximize our time here together,” Roberts says. “We make sure we give them safe exercises because, of course, we don’t want them to fall.”
If your disruptive balance is affecting your quality of life, talk to your physician about physical therapy. St. Joseph’s/Candler has five convenient locations including Rincon, Pooler, Savannah and The Landings. Learn more on our website.