What causes difficulty with coordination and balance and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Difficulty with coordination and balance can significantly impact a person’s daily life, making simple tasks challenging and increasing the risk of falls and accidents. These issues can arise due to various factors, including underlying medical conditions, injuries, or even age-related changes in the body. Understanding the causes of coordination and balance difficulties is crucial in finding effective treatment options to improve these symptoms and enhance overall quality of life.

What Causes Difficulty with Coordination?

Coordination problems can stem from a range of factors, including:

  • Neurological conditions: Certain neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and cerebellar ataxia, can disrupt the brain’s ability to control movement and coordination.
  • Brain injuries: Traumatic brain injuries, strokes, or tumors can damage the areas of the brain responsible for coordination, leading to difficulties in movement.
  • Muscle weakness: Weakness in the muscles required for coordination, such as those in the arms and legs, can make it challenging to perform precise movements.
  • Sensory issues: Problems with sensory input, such as impaired vision or proprioception (awareness of body position), can affect coordination.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as those used to treat seizures or psychiatric disorders, may have side effects that impact coordination.

Understanding Balance Difficulties

Balance issues can arise from similar causes as coordination problems, but they specifically affect a person’s ability to maintain an upright position. Some common causes of balance difficulties include:

  • Inner ear problems: The inner ear plays a crucial role in maintaining balance, and conditions like Meniere’s disease or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) can disrupt this delicate system.
  • Vestibular disorders: Disorders of the vestibular system, which is responsible for sensing motion and spatial orientation, can lead to balance problems.
  • Muscle weakness: Weakness in the muscles required for balance, such as those in the core and legs, can make it challenging to maintain stability.
  • Age-related changes: As we age, changes in the inner ear, vision, and muscle strength can contribute to balance difficulties.
  • Medications: Certain medications, including those used to treat high blood pressure or heart conditions, may affect balance as a side effect.

Treating Coordination and Balance Issues

While the specific treatment for coordination and balance difficulties depends on the underlying cause, there are several approaches that can help improve these symptoms:

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is often a key component of treatment for coordination and balance issues. A skilled physical therapist can design a personalized exercise program to target specific areas of weakness or impairment. These exercises may focus on improving muscle strength, coordination, and balance through various techniques, such as balance training, gait training, and functional movements.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy can be beneficial for individuals with coordination difficulties that impact their ability to perform daily activities. Occupational therapists can provide strategies and adaptations to make tasks easier and safer. They may recommend assistive devices, such as canes or walkers, to improve balance and stability during mobility.


In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage underlying conditions contributing to coordination and balance difficulties. For example, medications to control symptoms of Parkinson’s disease or vestibular disorders can help improve these symptoms. However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate medication and dosage for individual needs.

Assistive Devices

Assistive devices can play a crucial role in enhancing coordination and balance. Depending on the specific needs of an individual, devices such as orthotics, canes, walkers, or wheelchairs may be recommended to provide stability and support during movement.

Lifestyle Modifications

Simple lifestyle modifications can also contribute to improving coordination and balance. These may include:

  • Regular exercise: Engaging in activities that promote strength, flexibility, and balance, such as yoga or tai chi, can help improve coordination and balance.
  • Adequate rest: Fatigue can worsen coordination difficulties, so ensuring sufficient rest and sleep is essential.
  • Home modifications: Making changes to the home environment, such as removing tripping hazards and installing grab bars in bathrooms, can reduce the risk of falls.
  • Proper footwear: Wearing supportive and well-fitting shoes can enhance stability and reduce the risk of slips and falls.

It is important to note that while treatment options can significantly improve coordination and balance, some underlying conditions may not be fully curable. In such cases, the focus shifts to managing symptoms and maximizing functional abilities to maintain independence and quality of life.

In conclusion, difficulty with coordination and balance can stem from various causes, including neurological conditions, injuries, muscle weakness, sensory issues, and medications. Understanding the underlying cause is crucial in determining the most effective treatment approach. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, medications, assistive devices, and lifestyle modifications can all play a role in improving coordination and balance. By seeking appropriate treatment and making necessary lifestyle changes, individuals can enhance their ability to perform daily activities and reduce the risk of falls and accidents.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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