Preventing falls by treating balance problems

Physical therapist working with patientFranciscan St. James Health Therapy Services provides comprehensive rehab services for our patients who are at risk for falls. Our therapists are trained to treat vestibular disorders and balance dysfunction for a wide variety of diagnoses. We utilize current research and provide our patients with clinical outcomes proven to improve balance, reduce dizziness, and provide a higher quality of life for our customers.

Franciscan St. James has specially-trained therapists to diagnose and treat vestibular and balance disorders. Clinical experience shows that vestibular rehabilitation has success rates as high as 90%.

The first step in our Fall and Balance Program is determining the extent of the disorder. Therapists will perform a thorough evaluation, which includes:

  • History of the onset of symptoms
  • Identification of risk factors
  • Balance, coordination and agility testing
  • Gait and stance evaluation
  • Ocular examination
  • Cerebellar examination
  • Somatosensory examination
  • Positional or maneuver-induced assessment (if necessary

Based on the results of the evaluation, we develop a customized treatment program that is designed to return you to daily activities and independent function. More specifically, the plan of care may include:

  • Canalith repositioning maneuvers
  • Habituation exercises
  • Balance and gait training
  • Compensation adaptations and strategies
  • Exercises for gaze stability
  • Environmental and home modifications to reduce fall risks
  • Manual therapy to cervical spine and paravertebral musculature
  • Recommendations for compensatory activity modifications

Balance conditions and how we treat them:


The ability to balance is a complex process that requires the interaction of multiple body systems. The visual, vestibular, and somatosensory systems provide feedback about our environment and our position within it. Functional assessment tools are used to develop a personalized treatment plan. Physical therapists can also make recommendations if an assistive device, such as a cane, is needed.


Falling is a common and potentially serious problem for older adults, especially those with disabilities. Specific exercises, training and education can decrease the risk of falls and injury. Physical therapy begins with an assessment of overall mobility and factors that affect the ability to balance. These include strength, flexibility, motor control, cognition, vision and sensation. Treatment will involve a personalized exercise program and education geared to address problem areas. The physical therapist also makes recommendations for the home environment and safety issues. Sometimes, concerns are identified that are outside of the therapist’s scope of practice, such as cognitive or vision defects. In this instance, your therapist will refer you to an appropriate practioner to best assist your needs.


Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a common disorder of the vestibular system. Individuals may experience brief episodes of intense vertigo which may be related to positional changes of the head. It can occur spontaneously or be brought on by trauma. Individuals with BPPV can be successfully treated with physical therapy including the Canalith Repositioning Maneuver.

Dizziness and vestibular disorders

Treatment of vestibular disorders involves symptom specific, individualized exercise. The exercises mimic the movements that make people feel dizzy and lose their balance. The structured exercise program integrates daily activities and movement principles.