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  • Balance and Fall Risk

What to Look Out For

by: Samantha McDaniel, PT, DPT


Balance and Fall Risk Balance is a person’s ability to maintain an upright and stable position while sitting, standing, or moving. The body relies on input from three main systems for balance: the somatosensory system, the vestibular system, and vision. Each system provides unique information to the brain about where the body is in space. Once this information is processed in the brain, the brain creates a “plan” and instructs the muscles of the body on how to react in order to maintain balance.


Difficulty with balance commonly occurs due to disorders or impairments in the systems mentioned above: vision, proprioception (the somatosensory system), the inner ear (the vestibular system), or the musculoskeletal system.
Additional reasons for balance difficulty can include:
• Lack of activity or leading a sedentary lifestyle
• Certain medications
• Decreased sensation due to aging or disease, such as diabetes
• Medical conditions that affect the nervous system (Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, stroke, and others)




Why is Balance Important?

According to the CDC, more than 25% of older adults fall each year and 1 out of every 5 falls results in serious injury. Further, falling once doubles an individual’s chance of falling again. The good news is that there are numerous ways to reduce fear of falling, improve balance and reduce fall risk.




In physical therapy, balance training is individualized based on your specific impairments, activity level, environment, and the mechanism of any previous falls. Interventions may include keeping your balance in static positions, standing and reaching with your hands or feet, walking on unstable or uneven surfaces, walking around and over obstacles, or a variety of other functional tasks. Interventions may also involve vestibular rehabilitation, increasing joint mobility, or improving muscular strength and endurance.


Balance & Strength

Research supports that a combination of strength and balance training is effective in reducing fall risk.
Other factors to consider include:
• Minimize fall hazards around the home. For example: removing loose area rugs, adding nightlights to hallways and bathrooms, and securing appropriate handrails or grab rails.
• Get regular vision checks.
• Contact your physician if you suspect medications may be contributing to dizziness or falls.
• Maintain an active lifestyle.


Your physical therapist can help determine safe strategies for staying active, which is shown to reduce fall risk. Please feel free to contact me at with any questions!



About the aurthors:

Samantha McDaniel, PT, DPT

Ben Wobker, PT,MSPT, CSCS, SFMAc




3. Sherrington C, Whitney JC, Lord SR, et al. Effective exercise for the prevention of falls: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2008;56:2234–2243.

Read Samantha's Dog Safety Page: (click here)

Read More about falls (click here)



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