Perceived and functional balance control is negatively affected by diminished touch and vibration sensitivity in relatively healthy older adults and elderly

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Abstract

Background: Severe diminished foot somatosensation, for example, caused by neuropathies and advanced aging, contributes to balance deficits and increased fall risk. However, little is known about somatosensory impairment and functional and subjective balance problems in relatively healthy elderly. Method: Vibration perception thresholds (VPTs) were assessed with a biothesiometer and tactile pressure sensation thresholds (TPSTs) with 20 monofilaments in 34 relatively healthy community-dwelling older adults (M = 69.4 years). Balance was evaluated with functional balance tests and questionnaires. A stepwise regression analysis was performed to determine the extent to which VPTs, TPSTs, and age could explain balance impairments. Results: High VPTs had negative effects on Berg Balance Scale and Dizziness Handicap Inventory scores (p ≤ .011), as did high TPSTs on walking speed and Figure-8 test (p ≤ .001). With visual information available, one-leg standing time (OLST) was significantly affected by ipsilateral VPTs on solid and TPSTs on compliant surface (p ≤ .002). Without visual information, age was the only factor with a main effect on OLST (p < .001). Age had no significant correlations with TPSTs or VPTs. Discussion: Somatosensation appears to be very important for perceived as well as functional balance control in older adults. Our findings have important clinical implications when assessing balance impairment and impending fall risk.

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  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Geriatrics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalGerontology and Geriatric Medicine
Volume4
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jun 4
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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