Few problems can cause more disorientation and distress than a feeling of unsteadiness on your own two feet. Whether the problem stems from the feet themselves or some other issue that impairs the way you use your feet, you may feel too wobbly to walk, run, play sports, or even stand with confidence.
The complex relationship between your feet and your overall balance can confuse your predicament further until you don't know why you suffer from balance issues or where to turn for help. Take a look at four key considerations that can help you understand your balance problem and what to do about it.
1. Foot Problems Can Impair Your Balance
Your feet contain a variety of bones, muscles, nerves, and other critical structures, all of which must work together in unison to keep you balanced. Any abnormality, injury, or dysfunction in any of these structures can affect the way you stand and move on your feet, potentially throwing your balance off-kilter.
A painful foot problem such as a fracture, sprain, or arthritis can compel you to walk unnaturally as a means of favoring the injured foot. This abnormal stance and gait can seriously compromise your balance, potentially making you more vulnerable to falls or even training your body to maintain unnatural postures.
Nerve problems in your feet can make parts of them numb, a problem known as peripheral neuropathy. This loss of sensory data can make it difficult for your brain to send the right signals to the balancing muscles in your feet. A traumatic injury to the foot, a circulatory problem, or a disease such as diabetes can cause peripheral neuropathy. Visit your internist or primary care physician for your diabetes and your neurologist to diagnose and treat your peripheral neuropathy.
2. Balance Problems Can Affect Your Feet
Even if your feet enjoy normal structure and health, a problem elsewhere in your body can affect their ability to keep you balanced. Conditions such as cerebral palsy, inner ear dysfunction, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson's disease can all affect your balance. So can a pinched spinal nerve that contributes to peripheral neuropathy.
A musculoskeletal imbalance higher up in your body can throw you sufficiently off-balance that your feet must work unnaturally hard or adopt unnatural positions to compensate, if they can compensate at all. As a result, you may experience chronic aches and pains in your feet.
3. A Podiatrist Can Help Identify Your Balance Issue
If you suffer from a foot fracture or other obvious foot and ankle damage, you may already know how and why it has altered your balance. However, if you find yourself tripping more frequently, missing stairs, or struggling to negotiate uneven terrain, you may need to get checked for another kind of issue such as peripheral neuropathy.
Podiatrists understand the two-way relationship between foot function and physical balance. If your primary care physician or neurologist can't find an underlying medical cause for your balance issues, your podiatrist can examine your stance, gait, nerve responses, footwear, and foot/ankle anatomy to find the problem.
4. Foot and/or Ankle Treatment May Restore Proper Balance
Once your podiatrist has identified the cause of your balance issues, you may receive a variety of recommendations for overcoming them. Most obviously, you might need first aid and rest to heal soft tissue damage, or you may require surgery for a complex foot fracture or other foot/ankle structural abnormality that affects your balance.
Corrective footwear or a custom brace can go a long way toward straightening out balance problems, whether they originate in your feet or merely affect their comfort. Your podiatrist may prescribe custom orthotics, which can go a long way as a first step to compensate perfectly for musculoskeletal balance problems.
If neuropathy or muscle weakness has affected your feet's ability to balance your body, your podiatrist may prescribe various forms of physical or manual therapy to make your feet stronger, more flexible, and more responsive. You may also need to switch to different footwear, lose weight, or make other lifestyle changes.
If you'd like to get your feet (and the rest of your body) back into balance, set up an appointment at Ankle & Foot Clinic of Everett. Dr. Christensen can examine the relationship between your feet and your overall balance, prescribing whatever podiatric care you might need.