senior couple practicing warrior II poses while standing on yoga mats

Why Does Balance Decline with Age, and How Can Physiotherapy Help?

Geriatric physiotherapy focuses on meeting the unique needs and conditions of older individuals. The aging process can bring about various physical changes and health challenges, such as decreased mobility, muscle weakness, balance issues, arthritis, osteoporosis, and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease or stroke. Geriatric physiotherapy in Edmonton aims to treat and guide older adults to enhance their functional abilities and overall quality of life.

Why Does Balance Decline with Age?

Muscle Weakness: 

As people age, there is a decline in muscle mass and strength, referred to as sarcopenia. Weaker muscles, especially those in the lower body and core, can affect stability and balance.

Changes in Sensory Systems: 

The sensory systems responsible for balance, including vision, proprioception (the body’s awareness of its position in space), and the vestibular system (inner ear balance mechanism), may decline with age. Degeneration of these systems can impair the body’s ability to maintain balance.

Joint Stiffness: 

As individuals age, they may experience reduced flexibility and heightened stiffness in joints, notably affecting areas such as the ankles, knees, and hips. Reduced joint mobility can affect balance and make movements less fluid.

Reduced Reaction Time: 

With aging, the nervous system may slow down, leading to slower reaction times. This can affect the body’s ability to quickly adjust and respond to changes in balance, increasing the risk of falls.

Chronic Health Conditions: 

Age-related health conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, neuropathy, and cardiovascular diseases can impact balance. These conditions may affect muscle strength, joint mobility, sensation, and overall functional ability.

Inactivity and Deconditioning: 

Inactive ways of living and a lack of consistent physical activity can contribute to muscle weakness, reduced flexibility, and diminished balance control. Without regular exercise to maintain strength and coordination, balance may decline more rapidly.

Changes in Posture: 

Aging can lead to changes in posture, such as stooped or hunched posture, which can impact balance and elevate the likelihood of experiencing falls.

Fear of Falling: 

Previous falls or fear of falling can lead to decreased confidence in one’s balance abilities, causing individuals to adopt more cautious movements and behaviours that may further compromise balance.

How Can Physiotherapy Help with Balance Issues for Seniors?

Strength and Conditioning: 

Our registered geriatric physiotherapist prescribes exercises to strengthen muscles, particularly those involved in balance and stability, such as the core muscles, lower limb muscles, and muscles around the ankles and hips. Strengthening these muscles can enhance stability and reduce the risk of falls. Here are some common exercises often used in geriatric physiotherapy: Chair Squats:
  • Sit in a sturdy chair with feet hip-width apart.
  • Stand up from the chair using the strength of your legs.
  • Slowly lower back down to the chair.
  • Aim for 10-15 repetitions, gradually increasing as strength improves.
Sit-to-Stand Exercises:
  • Take a seat in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
  • Stand up without using your hands for support.
  • Slowly, sit back down.
  • Aim for 10-15 repetitions.

Balance Training: 

Geriatric physiotherapy in Edmonton includes specific balance training exercises designed to improve proprioception, coordination, and postural control. Exercises to improve balance for seniors may involve standing on one leg, performing various balance challenges on stable and unstable surfaces, and practicing movements that challenge balance while maintaining safety. Here are some commonly used balance workout techniques: Static Balance Exercises for Seniors:
  • Standing still on both feet with eyes open, then progressing to eyes closed.
  • Standing on one leg for increasing durations.
  • Engage in exercises that involve standing on unstable surfaces like foam pads or balance boards to enhance balance control.
Dynamic Balance Workout for Seniors:
  • Walking heel-to-toe in a straight line (tandem walking).
  • Sidestepping
  • Walking backward
  • Stepping over obstacles

Gait Training: 

Geriatric physiotherapy in Edmonton works on improving walking patterns and gait mechanics to enhance stability and confidence during walking. This may involve practicing proper foot placement, stride length, and rhythm, as well as addressing any abnormalities or compensatory strategies.

Manual Therapy: 

Hands-on techniques like joint mobilizations, soft tissue mobilization, and myofascial release may be used by physiotherapists to improve joint mobility, minimize muscle tension, and alleviate pain, contributing to better balance and movement. Some common manual therapy workouts to improve balance include: Muscle Energy Techniques (METs):
  • Active techniques where the patient contracts a muscle against resistance provided by the therapist.
  • METs can help improve joint mobility, correct muscle imbalances, and reduce pain.
  • These techniques are often used in conditions such as osteoarthritis, low back pain, or neck pain.
Craniosacral Therapy:
  • Craniosacral therapy may be used to alleviate headaches, improve sleep quality, or minimize stress and anxiety in older adults.

Empowering Seniors:

Incorporating strength and conditioning exercises into geriatric physiotherapy programs can significantly improve the physical health, functional abilities, and overall well-being of older adults. Furthermore, the personalized approach of 50+ Physio in Edmonton ensures that exercises are tailored to individual needs and health conditions, promoting safe and effective progress. With the ongoing expansion of the aging population, the importance of strength and conditioning exercises in geriatric care cannot be overstated, offering older adults the opportunity to age gracefully, maintain optimal physical function for as long as possible, and enjoy an enriching and vibrant lifestyle during their golden years.   Ready to Improve Your Strength and Balance? Consult with our registered Geriatric Physiotherapist Today and embark on your journey to better health and independence.  

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