What causes unsteadiness or coordination difficulties and how to treat them?

Symptom Database

Unsteadiness and coordination difficulties can significantly impact a person’s daily life, making simple tasks challenging and frustrating. These balance problems and motor control issues can arise due to various factors, including underlying medical conditions, injuries, or age-related changes. Understanding the causes of unsteadiness and coordination difficulties is crucial in finding effective treatment options to improve balance and coordination.

What Causes Unsteadiness and Coordination Difficulties?

Unsteadiness and coordination challenges can stem from a range of factors, including:

  • Neurological conditions: Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and cerebellar ataxia can affect the brain’s ability to control movement and balance.
  • Vestibular disorders: The vestibular system, responsible for maintaining balance, can be disrupted by conditions like Meniere’s disease, labyrinthitis, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as those used to treat seizures, high blood pressure, or anxiety, can cause dizziness and unsteadiness as side effects.
  • Musculoskeletal issues: Problems with muscles, joints, or bones, such as arthritis or muscle weakness, can affect coordination and balance.
  • Inner ear problems: Infections or damage to the inner ear can disrupt the signals sent to the brain, leading to impaired balance.
  • Age-related changes: As we age, changes in vision, muscle strength, and sensory perception can contribute to difficulty with balance and coordination.

Treating Unsteadiness and Coordination Difficulties

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

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in treating unsteadiness and coordination challenges. A skilled physical therapist can design a personalized exercise program to target specific areas of weakness or impairment. These exercises may focus on improving strength, flexibility, and balance through activities such as:

  • Balance training exercises
  • Coordination exercises
  • Strength-building exercises
  • Gait training

Physical therapy can also include techniques like vestibular rehabilitation, which aims to retrain the brain to compensate for inner ear problems and improve balance.


In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage the symptoms associated with unsteadiness and coordination difficulties. For example, medications that target specific neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease can help improve motor control and reduce balance problems.

Assistive Devices

Assistive devices can provide support and stability for individuals experiencing difficulty with balance and coordination. These devices may include:

  • Canes or walkers
  • Orthotic devices
  • Balance braces

Using assistive devices can help individuals maintain their independence and reduce the risk of falls.

Lifestyle Modifications

Simple lifestyle modifications can also contribute to improving balance and coordination:

  • Regular exercise: Engaging in activities that promote strength, flexibility, and balance, such as yoga or tai chi, can enhance overall coordination.
  • Healthy diet: Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining muscle strength and overall health.
  • Adequate rest: Fatigue can worsen unsteadiness and coordination difficulties, so ensuring sufficient rest is crucial.
  • Home modifications: Making the home environment safer by removing tripping hazards and installing grab bars can reduce the risk of falls.


Unsteadiness and coordination difficulties can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, but with the right treatment and lifestyle modifications, improvement is possible. Identifying the underlying cause of these challenges is essential in developing an effective treatment plan. Whether it’s through physical therapy, medication, assistive devices, or lifestyle modifications, individuals can regain their balance, coordination, and confidence in performing daily activities.

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