What is Postural Instability?

3 min read

Postural instability is a term that refers to a loss of balance. It is also known as balance impairment. This condition commonly occurs among people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  As the disease progresses, the patient may begin to lose their postural reflexes, which causes them to feel unsteady on their feet.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s is a disease that affects the brain and its ability to control the body’s movement.  Neurons in the brain produce dopamine, which affects movement.  When a person has Parkinson’s disease, those neurons degenerate and ultimately stop producing dopamine.

Parkinson’s disease primarily affects people over the age of 60.  Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, and the symptoms get worse over time.  However, the rate at which the symptoms worsen varies greatly between patients. Many patients who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease live for a number of years without experiencing any serious disability.

Symptoms of Postural Instability

A patient may lean forward or backward, without control of that motion, increasing the propensity to fall.  The patient loses their righting reflexes, which means that they are unable to take corrective measures to prevent a fall.

Parkinson’s patients who have a backward lean often take a step backward when they begin to walk.  If they are bumped from the front, they might also step backward.  This action is known as retropulsion.  Patients who have postural instability also commonly have a stooped posture with bowed head and drooping shoulders.  The patient may take very short steps, appearing as though they are hurrying forward to catch their balance.  This is known as festination.  Patients also sometimes stop quite suddenly while walking and freeze in place.  In some cases, this causes a fall.

Postural instability is not just a bothersome condition; it can be quite serious.  As a result of this lack of balance, patients may experience falls that lead to serious injuries, such as fractures and head injuries.  Falls can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Postural instability is a key indicator of Parkinson’s disease.  In some cases, postural instability is present at the time that Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed.  In other cases, postural instability may present later in the progression of the disease.  As the disease advances, postural instability can become quite disabling.  The tendency to fall can limit a person’s mobility and independence, making them more reliant on others and less able to care for themselves.  Postural instability has a profound impact on the patient’s quality of life.

Get Rid of Postural Instability

In the early and middle stages of Parkinson’s disease, postural instability can be treated with medication.  As time goes on and the disease advances, medication becomes less effective.  However, many patients in early and middle stages of Parkinson’s disease find improvement through the use of dopaminergic medications.

Physical therapy can also be beneficial for patients who struggle with postural instability.  Recent evidence has demonstrated that physical therapy is even more beneficial than was previously believed.  Practicing balancing exercises can improve stability and decrease the risk of falls.

Footwear can also aid postural stability.  Orthopaedic shoes and orthotic devices can add stability and support, improving a patient’s level of stability and balance.  In fact, research has shown that orthotic devices are an excellent choice for early-intervention for Parkinson’s patients.  The orthotics improve stability and proprioception, allowing patients to remain active and independent.

If you suffer from postural instability due to Parkinson’s disease, visit Foot Solutions UK.  We provide a variety of shoe inserts, custom arch supports and supportive shoes that can greatly improve your stability and help you to retain your mobility.  Visit Foot Solutions UK to learn more today.