Do You Feel Unsteady When You Walk?

photo by DavidShutter via Flickr
Life doesn't have to feel as though you are living on a boat! I was blown away by a statistic I recently read on dizziness/vertigo.

One in 10 adults of working age and one in 5 adults older than 60 have balance problems affecting their life. To me, that's a lot of people walking around not feeling perfectly steady!

Apparently, when screening "normal" individuals approximately 35% of working age adults and 50% of older adults (60+ years of age), demonstrated deficits in their vestibular system. The vestibular system works with your body to keep you upright. If you don't stay steady on your feet, you have some sort of  balance disorder. Guess what? For those of you over the age of 75, a balance problem is a major cause of a fall. Falling gets your attention and after a fall you see a medical provider. Costs for these falls are more than $8 billion per year.

Do you know what makes me sad? Only about 18% of you who feel unsteady when you walk actually go to a medical provider to help you!

If you feel unsteady, don't wait until you fall before you seek help! Take some time to visit your physical therapist. Physical therapists work with individuals who have balance problems. Physical therapists don't prescribe medications or immediately recommend a whole slew of testing. Believe it or not, physical therapists can help reduce and eliminate the sensation of a room spinning. They can also give you things to do at home to continue to reduce those odd sensations. The activities are easy and really don't take much time. Often times, you just have to do the activities 2-4 times a day for 5-10 minutes each session. Bet you like that idea versus running around from doctor to doctor, taking medication that will inherently have some sort of side effect or getting test after test! The first simple solution is to do something to eliminate your risk of falling. From what I've seen the results range from immediate relief to within a couple of weeks after doing the exercises.

Although the above is true, I don't want to mislead you. If you've had symptoms for years, it may take a bit more work to resolve the symptoms. Because you've had a high level of fear of falling for a long time, you've probably really limited what you do physically. If that is the case, your physical therapist will need to focus on more than just the unsteady sensation. You'll be challenged with activities to improve your balance and your strength.

Until next time,


Neuhauser HK, Radtke A, Von Brevern M, Lezius F, Feldmann M, Lempert T. Burden of
dizziness and vertigo in the community. Arch Int Med 2008;168:2118-24.

Yardley L, Owen N, Nazareth I, Luxon L. Prevalence and presentation of dizziness in a
general practice community sample of working age people. Br J Gen Pract 1998;48:1131-5.

Agrawal Y, Carey JP, Santina CCD, Schubert MC, Minor LB. Disorders of balance and
vestibular function in US adults: data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination
Survey, 2001-2004. Arch Int Med 2009;169:938-44.

Sloane P, Blazer D, George LK. Dizziness in a community elderly population. J Am Geriatr
Soc 1989;37:101-8.

Dros J, Maarsingh O, van der Horst H, Bindels P, ter Riet G, van Weert H. Tests used to evaluate dizziness in primary care. CMAJ. 2010; 182(13): E621–E631.


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  2. Hi Selena, great artiicle and I am pleased to say that I am one of those 18% that did go to see a physio in Burton, and I'm so glad I did. They also gave me 5 minute exercises to improve my balance using my stairs at home and I feel much, much better.

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