Can Orthotics Help the Elderly Improve Balance?

Senior couple walking in nature

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We take our ability to keep physical balance for granted. As we grow old, we start stumbling, ambling and limping; that’s if we’re lucky to be able to move at all. By the time balance-related problems begin, we’d be willing to give anything to get it back. Yet, few people stop to think that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The time to get informed on balance issues is right now, so here is a quick overview of what you should know and what you can do to prevent them.

As We Get Older, Our Balance Problems Increase

Ever felt lightheaded like you’re about to fall for no obvious reason? When you’re young, such conditions are not very common.

Unfortunately, as we grow older such balance problems start to appear more often. Furthermore, falling due to balance disorders is among the key causes of injuries among seniors.

What Could Cause Balance Disorders?

Balance problems are usually caused by a disturbance of the inner ear. The labyrinth, commonly known as the vestibular system, is the part that is responsible for keeping us balanced. When it becomes swollen or infected, it causes lack of balance and vertigo, or the feeling that the room is spinning around you. This condition is called labyrinthitis and it could be caused by upper respiratory infections and in some cases by bacterial infections.

Other causes of balance problems may include:

  • Stroke
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Low blood pressure
  • Head injury
  • Side effects of medication

What Are The Symptoms Associated With Balance Problems?

Vestibular system issues are relatively easy to identify. They could appear sporadically or bother you for a longer period.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

Vertigo or dizziness

  • Lightheadedness or feeling like you’re about to faint
  • Falling or feeling like you’re about to fall
  • Feeling like you’re moving when you’re standing still
  • Disorientation, including the sense of place, time, and/or identity
  • Blurred vision

Other less common balance disorder symptoms include:

  • Blood pressure and/or heart rate alteration
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety and/or panic attacks

How Can The Elderly Improve Their Balance?

If you notice you have balance problems, you need to schedule an appointment with your practitioner so you could identify the root of the problem. It might be nothing but if it’s serious, a routine exam can nip it in the bud. In some cases, however, the main cause for the issue is just the person’s age. The elderly are then advised to learn to cope with it. Still, there are ways the elderly could improve their balance by performing different exercises that affect the vestibular system. 

Here are a few examples that could be easily done at home.

  • Balancing On One Foot

Standing on one leg is an easy exercise to start with. At first, you may need to hold on to a counter or a steady chair while exercising. The idea is simple. Lift your left foot while trying to balance on your right foot. Hold like this for as long as you can and then switch legs. Your final goal should be to be able to balance on each foot up to one minute without the need to hold on to the chair.

  • Side Leg Raises

Here’s another safe exercise where you can use a chair for support. Before you start, your feet need to be slightly apart. Slowly raise your left leg to the side while holding the back of the chair. Make sure you maintain a good posture by keeping your back straight and looking straight ahead. Lower your leg slowly until you’re back to your initial position. For best results, repeat 10-15 times with each leg.

  • Marching In Place

Marching is another way you could improve your balance. You could hold on to a counter for support if you need to.

When you’re ready, simply raise your knee as high as you can. Then lower it and lift the other leg. Repeat this up to 20 times.

Orthotics Improve Balance in Older Adults

While regular exercising is an excellent way to improve both your balance and your general well-being, there are other extra steps you could take when dealing with balance disorders. One of them has a fancy name — orthotics.

What Are Orthotics?

Orthotics can have a different form depending on the specific needs of the person. In general, they are medical devices designed to support a weak bone or muscle. By using an orthotic device, the elderly can increase their comfort levels when moving and thus become more mobile. These devices can look very simple but they’re always medically tested and scientifically sound.

Can Orthotics Help The Elderly Improve Balance?

Scientists and medical specialists are actively looking into ways to improve balance in the elderly in order to reduce the risks of falls and injuries. One study on the issue was published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. The research aimed to prove if the elderly patients’ balance could be improved by using foot-orthotic intervention. The participants have all demonstrated signs of poor balance and have reported having a history of unexplained falls. According to the study results, there is preliminary evidence that foot orthoses could positively impact the balance in older adults suffering from balance disorders. The improvements were reported immediately after the custom foot-orthotic intervention, as well as after 2 weeks of using the orthotics.

Remember, The 3 Arches of Your Feet Still Need Support!

Maybe you have already felt the first symptoms of balance disorders or you want to prevent them from appearing in the first place. Consider getting a foot orthotic device or simply take care of your feet. Start by washing them thoroughly with a gentle soap whenever you take a shower. Being a very complex support system, your feet are your first line of defence against balance-related issues, since their arches provide you with the stability you need in your daily life. It’s time to put your foot down and push back against balance issues. With both feet on the ground, dedicate yourself to keeping them comfortable and healthy. Give us a call and we will scan your feet to make you custom orthotic inserts.

The Shoe Doctor has specialized in providing custom orthotics for 20 years. The right orthotic insoles can greatly reduce foot, knee and hip pain while increasing performance and comfort. Russell at The Shoe Doctor will help educate and assist you in finding the perfect solution for your particular situation. We will create a 3D map of your feet and make custom orthotics for your hiking boots, everyday shoes, and everything else in between. These orthotics, along with our expert advice, will get you using orthotics like a pro, and have you performing at your peak of your abilities in no time!  If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, give The Shoe Doctor a call to get the best custom orthotics in the area! We are here to assist you, give us a call at (925) 820-0220 for your free consultation!


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Russell Pate

Russell has been a Certified Pedorthist for over 28 years.

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