In both the elderly and rehabilitation populations, the maintenance and I or restoration of balance (and mobility) is essential. A decline in the ability to maintain balance has been identified as a significant risk factor for falls. Maintenance of balance is determined by many factors such as visual cues, inner ear mechanisms and mobility. There is growing evidence that an important relationship exists between the function of the spine – in particular the cervical region – and the complex neurology involving the senses of vision, balance and coordination. The presence of dysfunction in the neck may lead to changes in postural control mechanisms that can cause a decrease in the ability to maintain balance. 

Age -related changes in the neural, sensory and musculoskeletal systems can lead to impairments in postural control systems and balance resulting in increased risk of falls and reduced ability to move around safely in the elderly. Injuries resulting from falls particularly in the aged can result in a loss of independence, psychological stress, a general decrease in quality oflife and spiraling costs in the health care system. This study examines the relationship between the presence of clinical findings of cervical spine dysfunction and clinical measures of balance and risk of falling. Approximately 50 young healthy adults aged 20-35 years and 50 healthy older adults aged 60+ years will be evaluated for the presence of positive clinical findings associated with cervical spine dysfunction using standard procedures. Each subject will then be assessed for balance using functional clinical tests. 

The study will assist in identifying the role cervical spine dysfunction, as indicated by the presence of positive clinical findings, plays on balance and risk of falling in the aged as assessed by standard clinical outcome measures. This in turn could add to information on the possible role of chiropractic therapy in improving balance and reducing the risk of falling in the elderly with the potential to improve quality of life and reduce health care costs. 

Grant Value: $1,500
Chief Investigator: Dr Maxwell Walsh – RMIT
Status: Complete

Publications 

Presentations

  • The World Federation of Chiropractic 7th Biennial Congress, May 2003. Orlando, USA
    Walsh MJ (2003).
    A pilot study of the association between frequency of positive clinical findings in the cervical spine and clinical measures used to predict risk of falling in the aged. p.371