Focus on Gait and Balance

Focus on Gait and Balance:
Staying Young and Strong

By: Katie Morris, PT, DPT, GCS, Cert-MMOA, Site Director Brookneal Clinic

As we age, women make moisturizing our hands and face a priority. We no longer forget to put on sunscreen. We are overly critical of those fine lines and crow’s feet, so we buy “miracle” products and some of us even pay for expensive procedures to appear younger. But what do we overlook? What can keep us stronger and looking younger? Gait and balance training. The fact is that our balance ages us as quickly as the fine lines on our face.

Just as our wrinkles appear slowly over time, our gait and balance deficits creep up on us. Even folks who are very active experience a slow decline in strength and balance that leads to unstable gait and introduces the possibility of falls.


Gait and balance issues are common as we age.

Folks of all ages suffer from conditions that cause problems with gait and loss of balance issues. Abnormalities in the inner ear can cause dizziness. Nerve damage, joint pain, muscle or vision problems as well as certain medications or neurological conditions affect balance. Sores on the feet, ingrown toenails, calluses or something as simple as ill-fitting shoes also cause unsteadiness. In spite of these conditions, we have to work to maintain and improve our physical abilities in order to combat the slow decline caused by aging and other conditions.

Gait Impairments
Walking, a common daily activity that many of us don’t even think about, involves the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system as well as our cardiac and respiratory systems. According to the National Institute of Health, gait and balance disorders increase from around 10% from ages 60-69 to 60% in those over 80. Gait impairments affect our quality of life and our independence and can even affect life expectancy as we age.

Often as we get older, the speed and length of our steps decline. We lean forward, walk slower, begin to shuffle. All of these deficits are common but may not be normal. Ask your doctor about issues you’re having. Don’t wait until a fall happens to make changes.

Dangers of Falling
The risk of falling is a serious one as we age. Falling can lead to pain, broken bones, loss of independence, and disability. Weak muscles, poor balance, and foot problems often cause us to take that dreaded tumble. Planning ahead by working on gait and balance training will go a long way to maintaining our youthful appearances. Depending on the root cause of the gait issues, physical therapy can make significant improvements in strength and balance and can often reduce the risk of fall.

Fall Prevention Strategies
Reducing tripping hazards is the easiest and quickest way to prevent falls: remove throw rugs, keep items off the floor, beware of pets. Folks should get their hearing and vision checked regularly and wear functional, comfortable shoes. Getting enough sleep is another important step to reducing the risk of falls. Also, it’s important to know the side effects of our medication and to limit the use of alcohol. Adding brighter lights in hallways and bathrooms can be helpful as well. A very important fall prevention strategy is a regular exercise program that can build strength and increase flexibility.

Gait & Balance Training
During an evaluation at Rehab Associates, a physical therapist will begin with an assessment of a patient’s gait and balance abilities, take measurements, and evaluate the symptoms to arrive at a customized treatment plan. The plan often contains education, strengthening and flexibility exercises, gait training, balance work, and fall prevention strategies that will help patients live a healthier, more active lifestyle.

If you or your loved one would like gait and balance training, please call Rehab Associates today.

Manual therapy also plays an important role in recovery of musculoskeletal pain and disability. Mobilization of muscles, joint stabilization, and joint manipulation are key to a full recovery. Dry needling is another tool in a physical therapist’s belt to decrease tightness, increase blood flow, and reduce pain.

Fountain of Youth
Regardless of our age, gait and balance training is beneficial. Although not all falls are serious, the more we fight the inevitable decline that aging brings, the better off we are! Remember that physical therapy is just as important as your moisturizer!

If you’d like to see a Rehab Associates physical therapist or if you’d like to make an appointment for a loved one, please give us a call today at 855-722-8478. For more information about Rehab Associates and Dr. Katie Morris, please visit our website at

We're Hiring
Click here to Learn More
Call Us Now