A little help keeping your balance

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Getting older does not have to mean losing your balance.

For some time, Herb Rippa had been feeling dizzy and unable to drive or do other normal activities. He found himself more and more limited in what he could do. Finally he went to an ear specialist who diagnosed him with fluid in his inner ear.

After he sought treatment for that condition, he turned to physical therapy at University Health System’s Reeves Rehabilitation Center to help him recover his physical skills.

“When you have something that affects your everyday life, such as driving, you need to do something about it,” Rippa said.

At Reeves Rehab, physical therapist Chara Rodriguez puts Rippa through a series of tests and exercises designed to retrain his body and brain so that they work together again.

“It may take four or five months before it all goes away,” he said. “The doctor told me, ‘Just be patient.’”

Rodriguez said the physical therapy team looks at several aspects of the patient’s physical condition.

“We look at their ability to move, their strength and their balance,” Rodriguez said. “We assess their fall risk, which is something that’s very important, particularly as we age.”

She works with patients following stroke, brain injury or other conditions that may leave them off balance. It takes time and work, but the physical therapist is giving the patient the key to taking charge of his recovery.

Many people also have the misconception that being off balance and falling is a natural part of aging, she said, when it’s actually only typical to fall during toddlerhood, when one is first learning to walk.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, I’m getting older, I’m going to be off balance, I’m going to have dizziness.’ That’s really not the case,” she said.

“It’s not normal to fall,” Rodriguez said. “And so physical therapy is really the medicine for falling.”

This story appeared as part of the Real Men Wear Gowns campaign, a partnership between KENS TV and University Health System aimed at getting men to pay more attention to their health. You can see the story here.