What is poor balance?
Poor balance is the general term used to refer to a variety of balance problems. If you suffer from poor balance, you may feel dizzy, as if the room is spinning, unsteady, or lightheaded. You might feel that you’re going to fall down. These feelings can happen whether you’re lying down, sitting or standing.
Many body systems — including your muscles, bones, joints, vision, the balance organ in the inner ear, nerves, heart and blood vessels — must work normally for you to have normal balance. When these systems aren’t functioning well, you can experience balance problems.
Poor balance can lead to falls, which can cause broken bones and other injuries.
How common is poor balance?
Poor balance is extremely common. It can occur in patients in any gender at any age. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Which signs and symptoms can poor balance usually be associated with?
Related signs and symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mental confusion or disorientation
- Feelings of depression, fear, or anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Blood pressure and heart rate changes
What causes poor balance?
Causes of poor balance can include:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV occurs when calcium crystals in your inner ear — which help control your balance — are dislodged from their normal positions and move elsewhere in the inner ear. BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo in adults. You might experience a spinning sensation when turning in bed or tilting your head back to look up.
- Meniere’s disease. In addition to sudden and severe vertigo, Meniere’s disease can cause fluctuating hearing loss and buzzing, ringing or a feeling of fullness in your ear. The cause of Meniere’s disease isn’t fully known. Meniere’s disease is rare and typically develops in people who are between the ages of 20 and 40.
- Dizziness and sensitivity to motion (vestibular migraine) can occur due to migraine headache. Migraine is a common cause of dizziness.
- Acoustic neuroma. This noncancerous (benign), slow-growing tumor develops on a nerve that affects your hearing and balance. You might experience dizziness or loss of balance, but the most common symptoms are hearing loss and ringing in your ear. Acoustic neuroma is a rare condition.
- Vestibular neuritis. This inflammatory disorder, probably caused by a virus, can affect the nerves in the balance portion of your inner ear. Symptoms are often severe and persistent, and include nausea and difficulty walking. Symptoms can last several days and gradually improve without treatment.
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Also known as herpes zoster oticus, this condition occurs when a shingles-like infection affects the facial, auditory and vestibular nerves near one of your ears. You might experience vertigo, ear pain, facial weakness and hearing loss.
- Head injury. You might experience vertigo due to a concussion or other head injury.
- Motion sickness. You might experience dizziness in boats, cars and airplanes, or on amusement park rides. Motion sickness is common in people with migraines.
- Persistent postural-perceptual dizziness. This disorder occurs frequently with other types of vertigo. Symptoms include unsteadiness or a sensation of motion in your head. Symptoms often worsen when you watch objects move, when you read, or when you are in a visually complex environment such as a shopping mall.
- Orthostatic hypotension (postural hypotension). Standing or sitting up too quickly can cause some people to experience a significant drop in their blood pressure, resulting in presyncope.
- Cardiovascular disease. Abnormal heart rhythms (heart arrhythmia), narrowed or blocked blood vessels, a thickened heart muscle (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), or a decrease in blood volume can reduce blood flow and cause presyncope.
- Vestibular problems. Abnormalities in your inner ear can cause a sensation of a floating or heavy head, and unsteadiness in the dark.
- Nerve damage to your legs (peripheral neuropathy). The damage can lead to difficulties with walking.
- Joint, muscle or vision problems. Muscle weakness and unstable joints can contribute to your loss of balance. Difficulties with eyesight also can lead to unsteadiness.
- Loss of balance or unsteadiness can be a side effect of medications.
- Certain neurologic conditions. These include cervical spondylosis and Parkinson’s disease.
- Inner ear problems. Abnormalities of the vestibular system can lead to a sensation of floating or other false sensation of motion.
- Psychiatric disorders. Depression (major depressive disorder), anxiety and other psychiatric disorders can cause dizziness.
- Abnormally rapid breathing (hyperventilation). This condition often accompanies anxiety disorders and may cause lightheadedness.
The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of poor balance. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
What increases my risk for poor balance?
You may be at risk of balance problems if you’re on medication, suffering from a viral infection, experiencing inner ear problems, or recovering from a head injury. If you’re over 65 years old and have arthritis or high or low blood pressure, your risk of balance problems is higher. Traveling on a boat or ship may also cause temporary balance problems.
Please consult with your doctor for further information.
When to see your doctor
When should I see my doctor?
On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage poor balance?
These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with poor balance:
- To relieve vertigo, your doctor may prescribe activities that can be done at home or with the help of a rehabilitation therapist. A common technique that can be performed at home is the Epley maneuver. It involves sitting up and then quickly resting on your back and turning your head to one side. After a couple of minutes, you sit back up. Your doctor will probably show you this technique in their office, and you can repeat it at home to reduce or eliminate dizziness.
- If the cause of your balance problem is unknown or incurable, your doctor might instruct you on various ways to reduce your risk of injury. You may require assistance when using the restroom or climbing stairs. Using a cane or handrails at home may also be necessary. It’s generally best to avoid driving if your condition is severe.
- Your doctor might also make recommendations to address your overall health. These might include exercising, quitting smoking, limiting caffeine and alcohol, reducing your salt intake, and eating well-balanced meals.
Most balance problems are difficult to prevent. However, you can address those that are associated with blood pressure issues. Prevent low blood pressure by drinking more water and avoiding alcohol. Avoid high blood pressure by exercising regularly, limiting your salt intake, and maintaining a healthy weight.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
What Causes Poor Balance? https://www.healthline.com/symptom/poor-balance. Accessed February 22, 2019.
Physical Therapist's Guide to Balance Problems. https://www.moveforwardpt.com/SymptomsConditionsDetail.aspx?cid=1bb9c784-a874-43b1-976f-d0de03c19f99. Accessed February 22, 2019.
Balance problems. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/balance-problems/symptoms-causes/syc-20350474. Accessed February 22, 2019.
Review Date: February 22, 2019 | Last Modified: February 22, 2019