If you have experienced a recent fall, feel unsteady on your feet, have spells of dizziness, or have other reason to believe you might have a balance problem, you should talk to your doctor. While your family physician may not be a balance specialist, he or she can refer you to a qualified clinician who is equipped to do balance assessments and other related tests to determine the underlying cause(s) of your problem.
Find a Balance Specialist Near You
Depending on your symptoms and health status, your physician may request the opinion of an otolaryngologist or neurologist who specializes in balance problems to help evaluate your balance problem. Otolaryngologists specialize in diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat, head and neck. Symptoms of dizziness or unsteadiness may be caused by disorders of the ear or vestibular systems. An otolaryngologist with expertise in the balance system of the ear can most effectively evaluate these medical factors and recommend treatment where indicated.
A Neurologist is a physician who specializes in diseases and disorders of the brain and central nervous system, including the system responsible for controlling balance. Neurologists with expertise in the sensory and motor control systems of the brain can be particularly helpful in assessing balance problems related to the brain.
The otolaryngologist or neurologist will obtain a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination to begin sorting out possible medical causes of your balance problem. Special tests may be ordered to assess the cause of your balance disorder. These tests will vary, depending on your symptoms and health status. Different tests for evaluating balance function are discussed on this web site under Testing Balance Disorders.
Your primary care physician or medical specialist may also request an evaluation by a Rehabilitation Specialist, a Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist trained in assessing and retraining balance. Assisted by the medical history provided by your doctor, this specialist will perform specific tests to determine your ability to maintain your balance, as well as your risk for falling. Some physical therapists are also equipped to perform specialized equilibrium tests, which evaluate the sensory and motor parts of your balance system. Sensory tests assess the three sensory systems (inner ears, eyes, and sense of touch in your feet and joints) that contribute to balance control. Motor tests measure your ability to execute coordinated movements, both voluntary and involuntary, to maintain your balance. These tests will help define the functional impact of your balance problem and will help your physician and therapist customize your treatment for maximum benefit.
In some communities, comprehensive Balance Centers include specialized medical evaluation (by otolaryngologists or neurologists) and functional impairment assessment (by physical or occupational therapists) in the same facility. Your physician can refer you, or in many cases, you can contact the center directly to set up an appointment.
If you or your physician would like more information about balance disorders, please Contact Us.