Berg Balance Scale

Overview

What is the Berg balance scale?

The Berg balance scale helps determine a person’s ability to safely balance. The test consists of 14 predetermined tasks, each of which are scored on a scale from 0 to 4. The higher the score, the better your balance.

When would the Berg balance scale test be needed?

Originally, the Berg balance scale was designed to assess people over the age of 65 or those who have had a stroke. Today, however, the test is used to determine balance ability in several different populations, including people with:

When the Berg balance scale was created in 1989, it was intended to assess both balance and fall risk. However, research throughout the years has shown that the test is a poor predictor of falls. Therefore, today the BBS is generally used to assess static balance (the ability to keep your body in a fixed posture). If your healthcare provider’s goal is to determine your fall risk, the BBS may be performed in combination with other assessments, while taking your unique situation into account.

Who performs the Berg balance scale?

The Berg balance scale is a simple assessment that can be performed by any healthcare provider with adequate training. It’s commonly used by occupational therapists, physical therapists and clinical exercise physiologists to determine a person’s functional mobility.

Test Details

How do you do a Berg balance scale test?

Your healthcare provider will ask you to perform a series of tasks. Your ability to perform each of these tasks is graded on a scale from 0 to 4 and the scores are added together. The highest possible score is 56.

What should I expect before the test?

There’s no need to prepare anything prior to the Berg balance scale test. Your healthcare provider will explain how the test works when you arrive for your appointment.

What can I expect during the Berg balance scale test?

Your provider will ask you to perform 14 specific movements:

  1. Move from a sitting to a standing position.
  2. Stand up unsupported.
  3. Sit unsupported.
  4. Move from a standing to a sitting position.
  5. Transfer from one chair to another.
  6. Stand up with your eyes closed.
  7. Stand with your feet together.
  8. Reach forward with an outstretched arm.
  9. Pick an object up off of the floor.
  10. Turn and look behind you.
  11. Turn around in a complete circle.
  12. Place each foot alternately on a stool in front of you.
  13. Stand unsupported with one food directly in front of the other.
  14. Stand on one leg for as long as you can.

What should I expect after the test?

Following your Berg balance scale test, your provider will tally up your scores and discuss their findings with you. They may use the results of your test to determine next steps in treatment.

How long does the Berg balance scale test take?

The Berg balance scale test takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

Is the Berg balance scale standardized?

Yes. The Berg balance scale was designed to give healthcare providers a standardized measurement tool to assess balance.

Results and Follow-Up

What do Berg balance scale scores mean?

Berg balance scale scoring ranges from 0 to 56. The lower your score, the more at risk you are for losing your balance. In general, Berg balance scale scores are interpreted as such:

  • 0 to 20: A person with a score in this range will likely need the assistance of a wheelchair to move around safely.
  • 21 to 40: A person with a score in this range will need some type of walking assistance, such as a cane or a walker.
  • 41 to 56: A person with a score in this range is considered independent and should be able to move around safely without assistance.

When should I know the results of the test?

Because the Berg balance scale can be administered quickly in one office visit, you should know the results before your appointment is over.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Sometimes balance problems are temporary, but they can also be an indication of an underlying issue. If you experience balance problems that last more than an hour, or that are accompanied by other symptoms — such as headaches, neck pain or nausea and vomiting — call your healthcare provider right away. They can perform an examination to determine the root cause of your balance issues and design a personalized treatment plan for your needs.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

The Berg balance scale is used to assess balance problems related to a wide range of health issues. Keep in mind that this assessment plays one small role in your diagnosis. Your healthcare provider may use a combination of tests to determine the best treatment for your specific needs.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/17/2021.

References

  • Berg KO, Wood-Dauphinee SL, Williams JI, Maki B. Measuring balance in the elderly: validation of an instrument. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1468055/) Can J Public Health. 1992 Jul-Aug;83 Suppl 2:S7-11. PMID: 1468055. Accessed 9/27/21.
  • Boulgarides LK, McGinty SM, Willett JA, Barnes CW. Use of clinical and impairment-based tests to predict falls by community-dwelling older adults. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12665404/) Phys Ther. 2003 Apr;83(4):328-39. PMID: 12665404.
  • Neuls PD, Clark TL, Van Heuklon NC, Proctor JE, Kilker, BJ, Bieber ME, Donlan, Alice V, Carr-Jules SA, Neidel WH, Newton RA. Usefulness of the Berg Balance Scale to Predict Falls in the Elderly. (https://journals.lww.com/jgpt/Fulltext/2011/01000/Usefulness_of_the_Berg_Balance_Scale_to_Predict.2.aspx) Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy: January/March 2011 - Volume 34 - Issue 1 - p 3-10. doi: 10.1097/JPT.0b013e3181ff2b0e. Accessed 9/27/21.

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