TUPELO • Ear, nose and throat specialists are balancing expanded services.

Physical therapy is most commonly associated with orthopedics. However, a need for more specialized focus on balance issues prompted ENT Physicians of North Mississippi to add Fyzical Therapy & Balance Center when it opened its Crosstown offices in Tupelo.

“We have a specialized niche (treating) patients with dizziness, vertigo and balance issues,” said Dr. Ryan Simmons, who is one of six ear, nose and throat physicians in the practice. “Some of them are treatable problems; others have chronic problems.”

A physical therapy space dedicated to balance issues gives the physical therapists added tools to address balance issues. An overhead track and harness system protects patients from falls.

“They can do exercises safely without fear in the harness,” said physical therapist Lee Ann Stewart. “We can try more challenging activities.”

The center, which opened in late August, also has some specialized equipment developed for the Fyzical franchise to help patients improve their balance. Both Stewart and fellow Fyzical physical therapist Alison Farley have specialized training in inner ear and balance disorders.

Balance involves a complex interplay between the eyes, inner ear and sensory systems, Stewart said. It can be further complicated by other issues like weak leg muscles, Parkinson’s disease and deficits after stroke. While teens and young adults can develop conditions that affect balance, balance issues are most common in older adults.

“Dizziness and vertigo are big issues, especially for older adults,” Stewart said. “There’s a large need.”

Addressing balance issues can reduce the risk of falls that can be devastating to the health of older adults. Fear of falling can be equally troublesome, Stewart said. People become more sedentary as they try to avoid falls, which in turn makes them weaker. They curtail social activities.

“It can be a vicious cycle,” Stewart said.

Fyzical has specialized equipment to assess balance that compares the patient with other people the same age. It can identify which systems have deficits and allow the physical therapist to tailor a therapy based on their needs, age and health.

“It gives us a very objective baseline,” Stewart said. “It allows us to measure progress over time.”

As part of the Fyzical franchise, the physical therapists have systematic progression to use for patients to move forward in their therapy.

“We’re trying to build a good foundations so they can get back to normal without fear of falling,” Stewart said.

Like all physical therapy, patients need doctor’s orders to be evaluated and treated. Although many of their current patients were referred from ENT practice, they accept referrals from other physicians.

Most patients come twice a week for six to eight weeks with a focus on improving their ability to move safely and return to their daily activities.

“We want them to love life and get back on their feet,” Simmons said.

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