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Physical Therapist Intervention for Balance Impairments May Help Reduce Risk of Falling
Date:1/14/2008

rs can do to help prevent falls, observes Roberta Newton, PT, PhD, a professor at Temple University's Department of Physical Therapy. "Fifty percent of older adults think that if they decrease their physical activity level, they will have less chance of falling. But, in reality, the exact opposite is true," says Newton. Many of her patients view exercise as a chore more than as pleasure, so Newton often recommends activities such as gardening, line dancing, and yoga to help improve balance and movement. "We see significant improvement not only in patients' balance, but also with their confidence levels, an awareness of body alignment, and a reduced fear of falling," she says.

"Physical therapists play an important role in screening patients for potential balance problems," notes Susan Whitney, PT, PhD, NCS, ATC, of the University of Pittsburgh. "Once a physical therapist has thoroughly examined a patient and has a comprehensive medical history in hand, he or she will design an individualized program of exercises and activities with an emphasis on strength, flexibility, and proper gait." If necessary, the physical therapist will refer the patient to other medical professionals, such as an ophthalmologist or neurologist.

Physical therapists Marilyn Moffat, PT, PhD, professor of physical therapy at New York University, and Carole Lewis, PT, PhD, GCS, professor in the department of geriatrics at George Washington University, authors of Age-Defying Fitness, say that you have to train your balance in the same way you have to train your muscles for strength and your heart for aerobic capacity.

According to Moffat and Lewis, balance may be improved with exercises that strengthen the ankle, knee, and hip muscles and with exercises that improve the function of the vestibular (balance) system. Moffat and Lewis suggest starting with a simple assessment of your current ability to maintain good balance. With a counter or sturdy furniture near enough to
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SOURCE American Physical Therapy Association
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