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Dancer teaches seniors a thing or two about balance

Peter H. Gott, M.d. The Spokesman-Review

Dear Dr. Gott: Regarding balance problems in senior citizens, I too am experiencing diminishing balance abilities, complicated by mild neuropathy in both feet. I would like to share a couple of tips my wife, a former ballerina, gave me.

Anyone who has seen a ballerina spin has perhaps observed that her head does not turn with her body; instead, it snaps around, always ending at the same place it started. She is gazing fixedly at a distant spot and returning to that spot with each spin.

This is called, not surprisingly, “spotting,” and it is a ballet trick both to keep from getting dizzy and to maintain balance.

Applying this principle at home when drying my feet, putting on trousers, etc., I gaze at any convenient spot well above the floor and about 6 to 10 feet away. I find that this is very helpful.

The other tip is called “point of reference.”

Anyone who has seen skilled ballet dancers exercising at the barre may have noticed that they do not actually grip the barre; instead they rest their hands on it lightly, not to steady themselves but to provide a reference point for verticality, hence for balance.

I apply this technique at home by lightly touching a countertop while practicing standing on one foot. This technique can, of course, be combined quite successfully with spotting.

I hope these principles from the world of ballet prove helpful to your readers.

Dear Dr. Gott: I am delighted to welcome the arts to a medical column. Your wife’s suggestions make sense and may help some readers with balance problems.

Thanks for your letter.

Dear Dr. Gott: What can you tell me about rectoceles? I’ve had one for about six months.

My physician recommended that I go see an OB-Gyn, who inserted a pessary, which I’ll apparently have to use for the rest of my life.

I can’t imagine the thought of using this for the rest of my life.

Although I’ve never heard of a rectocele before, I’m told that it’s fairly common.

Shouldn’t I be seeing a colorectal specialist for this problem instead of an OB-Gyn? I’d like to know more about the possibility of surgery for this.

The OB-Gyn isn’t too keen on this. How effective is it?

Dear Reader: You are suffering from a common condition that is marked by a sagging segment of your intestine that tends to drop into the vagina.

Although I agree that you should get a second opinion from a colorectal surgeon, I’d hold off on surgical repair while you give the pessary a trial. If, after several months, your rectocele has worsened or continues to plague you, a surgical option is definitely something to consider.

Remember that a rectocele is not a hazard to your health; it is just a nuisance.

To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my health report “An Informed Approach to Surgery.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope and $2 to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.

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