Fall risk screening,conditioning program and vestibular screening

Published 4:25 pm Thursday, July 18, 2013

Problems with balance or dizziness (vestibular disorders) can disrupt your quality of life while falls can cause painful debilitating injuries for older adults. St. Luke’s Hospital now offers a vestibular rehab program.

At some point in their life, 40 percent of people over age 40 experience dizziness or a balance problem.A common cause is a dysfunction within the inner ear. According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, dizziness is second only to lower back pain in the number of complaints that physicians treat.

Through St. Luke’s Hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, skilled therapists help individuals return to a maximum level of functioning after an illness or injury. A team of experts work together to assess each individual suffering from balance or vestibular (inner ear) disorders, and develops a custom plan for treatment.

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Common symptoms with balance or vestibular dysfunctions include spinning or dizziness (vertigo); poor balance; difficulty in sitting, standing, bending, and walking; falls; periods of lightheadedness; and feelings of faintness (syncope).

Certain people are at high risk for accidental falls and should be regularly screened to help reduce the high number of fall-related injuries and deaths in the United States, a guideline says.

The guideline, issued by the American Academy of Neurology, concluded that people with stroke, dementia and walking and balance disorders have the greatest risk of falling. Having fallen in the past year strongly predicts that a person will suffer another fall. People with Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, weakness in the legs or feet and substantial vision loss are also at increased risk for falls.

Also, routine balance screening can help identify underlying problems such as vestibular disorders.

“Many people with vestibular disorders spend years suffering from debilitating symptoms before receiving a diagnosis,” said Scott McDermott, occupational therapist and director of St. Luke’s Hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. “The more frequently people receive balance screening, the earlier they can get diagnosed and seek treatment such as vestibular rehabilitation therapy.”

Vestibular rehabilitation is a special form of physical therapy involving exercises designed to coordinate eye and head movements, desensitize the vestibular system, improve balance and walking ability, fitness and endurance.