Patients who’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) such as a concussion can encounter a myriad of problems during their recovery. One of the more common problems is the inability to maintain balance.
Between 40 and 60% of patients experience dizziness and a lack of balance following any head trauma. Depending on the extent of your injury and any pre-existing health conditions, it can take anywhere between a couple of weeks to a few years for your balance to improve.
To get a better understanding of the problem, let’s take a look at how balance is maintained, what can cause balance-related problems, and what you can do to improve your balance after a concussion.
How Balance is Maintained
While balance is often taken lightly. Maintaining it is a complex process that can be disrupted after a concussion rather easily.
To maintain balance, you have to rely on:
- Visual feedback
- Inner ear vestibular mechanism
- Proprioceptive feedback from the ground
The visual and vestibular systems and proprioception work together to control your balance and help you keep an upright posture. Your eyesight helps with your spatial orientation, your inner ear has many small organs that monitor the rotation and linear movement of your head, and proprioception gives you insight into your body position relative to the ground.
A concussion can affect and damage any of these systems, often resulting in balance problems.
Causes of Balance Problems After TBI
Your visual system is your primary sensory information to maintain postural balance. Partial loss of vision, problems with depth perception, double vision, and more, can affect your ability to maintain balance.
Problems with your vestibular system can cause dizziness, vertigo, etc. You’re likely to feel the symptoms when there are changes in the head position, like when you’re standing up, lying down, tipping your head, standing, or walking.
Sensory impairments, such as nerve damage in your feet, will force your brain to rely more on eyesight and the inner ear to maintain balance.
A sudden drop in blood pressure can also affect your balance, and so can brainstem injury, mental health issues, or any medication that you might be taking. Consult with your doctor to find out whether certain medications can affect your balance.
How to Improve Balance After Concussion
Different causes of balance problems will require different treatments, and it’s important to talk to your doctor, physical therapist, or another healthcare provider about your options.
Light exercise has proven to be helpful. Increasing your strength and flexibility will not only help with your balance problems, but they might improve your recovery time after a concussion as well.
You can practice standing with your eyes closed so that you can rely more on other senses for balance. Practice walking while carrying on a conversation, or walking in crowded places or over different surfaces.
It’s important to go slowly and be cautious when working on improving your balance. Talk to your physical therapist so that you can come up with a program that’ll help you improve your balance after a concussion.
For more information on concussions or to book an appointment, give us a call today or use the convenient form below.