Causes of Balance Problems

The Body Compass

What Causes Balance Problems?

The causes of balance problems are varied. Balance relies on the harmony of three systems in your body: your inner ears, eyesight and moving joints and muscles. Any disruption to the way these systems communicate can result in dizziness, vertigo and even nausea.

Types of Balance Problems

Balance problems can range from intermittent feelings of unsteadiness to constant disorientation. This may also be described as vertigo or dizziness. They can be broadly categorised into four different types, which are:

Imbalance Caused by Muscles and Joints

If your brain is struggling to communicate with your muscles and joints, then you can experience imbalance. This could be because your brain doesn’t know where you are in space or where your head is in relation to your body. This sensory mismatch can then lead to muscle aches, joint pain and dysfunction. Commonly this can lead to stiffness or pain especially in your neck, back and feet.

Balance Problems Caused by Known Conditions

Known conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebellar Ataxia can cause severe balance problems. If you suffer from one of these conditions, my treatment will help to maintain and improve your balance as much as possible. It will also help to optimise your neurological function by focusing on the way that your body communicates with your brain.

Intermittent Balance Problems

If you’ve recently experienced a head, neck or foot injury, you may encounter balance problems that only persist for a matter of weeks.

Benign brain tumours - especially in the cerebellum - and cervical spine decompression can also cause feelings of intermittent dizziness, as can our inner ears. Benign-Paroxsymal Postural Vertigo (BPPV) and  labyrinthitis are disorders of the inner ear that can result in severe balance problems. Persistent Postural-Perceptual Dizziness also causes intermittent dizziness, disorientation, headaches and nausea which can be severe at times.


From those that want to maximise performance and minimise injuries, balance is essential. I can help athletes to fine tune their balance, as well as anybody else who wants to reach peak performance.

Amongst others, my clients include an expedition photographer who’s felt the brunt of arctic conditions. I’d love to help you to optimise your balance to take you to the next level in your field.

At my Bristol chiropractic clinic, I help people suffering from all of these types of balance problems to improve their stability.

The Causes of Balance Problems

The causes of balance problems include diagnosed conditions, concussions, stress, anxiety, ear pressure and more. Let’s have a look at these in a bit more detail.

Inner Ear Balance Problems

Severe balance problems are often caused by problems with your inner ear. These include ear infections - which can make you feel dizzy and unsteady - and high ear pressure, which can cause vertigo.

Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder. It has a number of different symptoms, including hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo. The vertigo is usually experienced in acute episodes, due to irreversible damage to the hair cells in the inner ear. This can often lead to deafness and balance problems on one side of your body.


Labyrinthitis is often an acute attack of vertigo or dizziness, nausea — often with vomiting — and tinnitus. The cause is usually an inner ear infection, which inflames the balance structures and sends the wrong signals to the brain. Acute episodes respond well to medication, which  manages the debilitating symptoms. The recovery phase includes rehabilitating the balance centres in the brain.

Benign Postural Paroxysmal Vertigo (BPPV)

Benign Postural Paroxysmal Vertigo - or BPPV - is an inner ear disorder caused by floating calcium crystals. The inner ear constantly provides information to your brain about where you are in space, so interference with its function can cause severe balance problems.

These crystals can cause acute vertigo with certain head movements, such as those done when turning in bed or laying down. BPPV usually responds well to treatment with the Epley Maneuver, followed by rehabilitation and home exercises. At my Bristol chiropractic clinic, I provide vestibular rehabilitation for those suffering from BPSS and all other ear disorders.

Vestibular Neuritis

Vestibular Neuritis is brought on by inflammation of the vestibular nerve, and is another cause of balance problems. It is similar to Labyrinthitis, but does not affect your hearing. It is thought to be due to viral infection, so episodes of vestibular neuritis are often managed with medication, and any lingering symptoms usually respond well to vestibular rehabilitation.

Concussion and Balance

Another common cause of balance problems is concussion. Anything from a knock to the head to a mild traumatic brain injury can result in dizziness, unsteadiness and vertigo. In fact, any injury that results in unnatural head and neck movement can cause damage to the brain tissue.

Balance problems are often felt in the immediate wake of an injury. In most cases recovery from concussion is usually within 3 weeks for adults, or 4 weeks for children and adolescents.

Causes of Balance Problems in the Elderly

Balance problems are common in the elderly, and are often caused by conditions relating to their blood pressure - orthostatic hypotension, joint stiffness, a loss of sensation and movement in the feet,  as well as movement disorders such as Parkinson’s. Elderly people that experience balance disorders can harm themselves from falls, and find dizziness as an impairment against performing day-to-day tasks.


Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disease. It targets a specific part of the brain that plays an important role in co-ordinating movement. It classically has three elements to it: tremor, rigidity and slowness of movement. All of these elements can cause a loss of balance.

What Causes Balance Problems in Toddlers?

Toddlers are prone to balance problems. If you believe that your child is suffering from a vestibular disorder, it’s important to look out for the symptoms. They include:

  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent falls
  • Clumsiness

Babies, toddlers and young children can experience imbalance due to ear infections, problems with their eyesight, dyspraxia and more. For more information, visit my babies and balance page.

Can Anxiety Cause Balance Problems?

Anxiety and stress can cause dizziness and vertigo. In fact, they often go hand in hand; roughly a third of people with dizziness have anxiety and a third of people with anxiety have dizziness.

Many people do not make the connection between the two. If you think that stress and anxiety is causing you balance problems, you can come and visit me my Clifton chiropractic clinic.

Joint and Muscle Problems

An old sprained ankle, a weak knee, a stiff hip, back or neck can all affect your balance. Usually we are distracted by the pain that is associated with these problems, and don’t think about the implications for our balance.

Any joint that is a restricted in its movement will cause balance problems. That means that it’s important to seek vestibular rehabilitation in the wake of joint, muscle and ligament injuries. As a Bristol chiropractor, I can help you to recover from your injury and regain your balance.

Eyesight and Balance

Problems with eye movement and eye co-ordination can cause blurred or double vision. This can have severe implications for your balance. Your visual system will often compensate for a vestibular problem and I can help you with a programme of diagnosis, rehabilitation and recovery.

Medication and Balance

Lightheadedness and dizziness can also be an indication that there is a problem with your medication. If you are taking prescription medicine or drugs, it should be regularly reviewed by your pharmacist.

Other Causes of Balance Problems

Of course, the causes of balance problems are not restricted to concussion, anxiety and the conditions mentioned above. Here are some other common diagnoses for dizziness and vertigo.

Persistent Postural-Perceptual Vertigo - PPPV

This is a functional diagnosis made for people who have a persistent sensation of non-rotational dizziness or unsteadiness, as well as a hypersensitivity to motion, lasting at least 3 months. It is the most common cause of chronic dizziness in 30-50 year olds, often following an event that caused acute vertigo or dizziness, such as labyrinthitis, vestibular neuritis or a panic attack.

Typically, patients recover from the initial acute disease, but the balance problems persist. Vestibular rehabilitation, with a focus on how balance is processed centrally in the brain as well as therapy for anxiety, can help here.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis affects the nervous system and balance in a variety of different ways. The problems are caused by the loss of fat around the nerves that usually provides insulation, and allows signals to travel both quickly and clearly around the brain and body. The symptoms will depend on which nerves are affected and, amongst other things, can lead to severe balance problems.

Vestibular Migraine

Migraines can often cause problems with balance, especially if the migraine is associated with movement.

Cardiovascular Disease and Hypotension

An abnormal heart beat, narrowing of the blood vessels to the heart, low blood pressure and hypertension can make it hard for enough oxygen to be supplied to the brain.

This can lead to a sensation of light headedness, especially in response to movement or exercise.

A Bristol Chiropractor with a Special Interest in Balance

Balance problems can be caused by a number of different conditions. At the Body Compass, I work to diagnose, provide support, rehabilitate and to improve function in your balance systems. If you are suffering with dizziness, vertigo or imbalance, you can contact me here.

If it is appropriate, I will refer you for imaging such as an MRI or X-ray, or to another specialist such as a Neurologist, ENT Consultant, Audiologist, Optometrist or a Counsellor or Psychotherapist.

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