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New Year, Better Health: Balance Problems & Neuropathy

Balance and Falling

Falling is far too common a problem in older generations. As a chiropractor, I see the pain, and long-term issues that falls can cause every day. It is now approximated to be the second leading cause of death from unintentional injuries. Over 40,000 deaths in the United States a year just from falling. If you or someone you know has had a severe fall, you know the physical and emotional strain it causes. Maintaining our balance as we age is crucial to our longevity. So, what causes us to lose it? There are a variety of reasons we have falls; vertigo, head injuries, vision problems, and migraines are frequent examples. The most common reason that I have seen is due to balance issues stemming from neuropathy. Individuals with neuropathy have an increased risk of falling. To explain, we must dive into how our nerves work.

Understanding Why Some Lose Their Balance:

“Neuro” means nerves and “pathy” means suffering or damaged. So, someone with neuropathy has damaged nerves. Nerve damage typically begins in the feet as it is farthest from your heart; blood flow is important for healthy nerves. A healthy peripheral nervous system will send signals to the body through motor nerves, and signals to the brain through sensory nerves. These signals are highly important as they tell your body where it is in space. When these nerves become damaged, the signals are interrupted, and they do not transmit to the brain fast enough. The body no longer knows where it is, or what it’s standing on. The knowledge of texture, stability, surface height, temperature etc. is lost.

This delayed response and numbness results in decreased balance and increased falls.

Strategies for dealing with Neuropathy:

Neuropathy declines exponentially. The diagnosis is severe once an individual has lost their balance as it is the last symptom to appear. This is why it is important to not wait until your balance has reached a point of falling before getting tested to see if you have neuropathy.

A good practice to monitor your balance is to time yourself standing on one foot every couple weeks. Please make sure to do this with someone monitoring you or with stable support so you do not fall during testing. If your balance begins to decrease by greater than 4 seconds, it would be recommended to get a consultation to see if you have neuropathy, especially if you have noticed cold feet, numbness or hypersensitivity in your feet, or the feeling of “walking on a cloud” or “sponge”.

Once your balance is gone, and your neuropathy is severe, it is difficult to recover. Consult with a doctor you trust to see if your balance issues are related to neuropathy and discover what they can do for you. Take control of your health in 2024.

– Dr. Ken Horup DC, Neuropathy Expert located in Hilton Head Island, SC 

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