- Seasickness or motion sickness. Occurs because your eyes tell you the boat or car is steady but your inner ear senses the rocking or motion.
- Vertigo. A sudden sensation of unsteadiness or spinning, sometimes causes by inner-ear problems.
- Postural hypotension. A drop in blood pressure when you’re rising from a bed or chair that can cause lightheadedness.
- Neurological conditions. Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, strokes, and other conditions that can contribute to balance problems.
- Nerve damage in your feet. Associated with type 2 diabetes and other causes of neuropathy
- Medications. Many medications, like antidepressants, sedatives or tranquilizers have dizziness or vertigo as a possible side effect.
Preventing loved ones from falling is a constant preoccupation for caregivers. Try these exercises to help you and those you care for stay on your feet.
The good news is that balance is a motor skill that can be maintained and even improved with exercises that keep your hips, knees, and ankles strong. When you feel comfortable enough doing these exercises with your eyes open, try them with your eyes closed to stimulate your vestibular system. Always have a sturdy object such as a chair within reach just in case you feel wobbly.
One-leg stands. Stand straight. Raise one leg, bending your knee to 45 degrees. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs. Try one-leg stands while waiting in lines, washing dishes or watching TV.
Heel-to-toe walking. Walk with the heel of the front foot touching the toe of the back foot as you take 10 steps forward.
Side-stepping. Step to the right, then bring your left foot to meet your right foot. Advance to cross-stepping, where you side-step to the right and cross your left leg behind, then side-step to the right again and cross your left leg in front. Continue this pattern as you walk sideways across a room.
Unassisted standing from a chair. Sit in a firm chair and stand without using your arms for balance.
Tai chi. Try a tai chi program, which is excellent for promoting balance.
Ankle pumping when you get out of bed. If you are prone to dizziness when rising from your bed, sit on the edge of the bed for a few seconds and pump your ankles before you stand up. Before you move, take a deep breath, get your bearings (as my grandmother would say), and then step forward. Many of us get up too quickly and start to walk too soon.