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Cane, therapy may improve stability

Peter Gott United Media

Dear Dr. Gott: I am 80 and have noted a progressive loss of balance, possibly due to weakness. I fall daily, don’t drink and worry about sustaining a serious injury. What help is available?

Dear Reader: I understand and sympathize with your predicament. But I’m not sure that I’m your best resource. Have you addressed this serious issue with your primary care physician? If not, you should.

Is your vision satisfactory?

Are you, in fact, becoming weaker, or is your problem simply lack of balance? If so, can you stand on one leg for a count of five? This quick and easy test will show a balance problem that can be further studied by specialists (ear-nose-throat doctors, orthopedic surgeons and neurologists). Weakness will also need investigation. Your primary care physician can guide you.

Meanwhile, I suggest that you use a cane for stability. Make sure your dwelling is safe (handrails on stairs, adequate lighting, no throw rugs). And consider taking part in a balance program, many of which are offered by the physical therapy departments in hospitals. Look into this. And don’t procrastinate about getting the medical evaluation you need.

Because your problem of balance is covered in my new book “Live Longer, Live Better: Taking Care of Your Health After 50,” I am going to send you a copy of it. Other readers who are interested can find a copy through Quill Driver Books (, 800-497-4909). The book covers a wide variety of common complaints of the over-50 set.

Dear Dr. Gott: Your dismissal of foot reflexology that you claim to share with “reputable medical authorities” may be a mistake. Here’s my experience.

A few years ago, my husband and I were stationed in Turkey. He got hepatitis A from the food and was given no medicine by the military “medical authorities.” Eventually, his jaundice receded.

At this time, I read a book on reflexology and, one night, pressed firmly on the section of his foot that controls the liver. This was extraordinarily painful for him, but after he recovered from hepatitis, the sole of his foot was no longer tender.

Your position on reflexology needs updating.

Dear Reader: Not on the basis of your husband’s experience. As far as I can see, your husband’s hepatitis A cleared up (as is true in most cases) but in the process, he had a tender foot. I don’t believe that your observation bears any relation to health, disease or reflexology, a questionable form of alternative medicine that has not, in any reputable study, been shown to have the slightest merit.

Sorry, you’ll have to do better.

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