Poor balance? You are not alone!
Balance is a major component of injury rehabilitation. I always test people’s balance in their first visit and I commonly hear: “My balance sucks”.
Our postural equilibrium is processed at the brainstem and is often used to measure functional stability and sensorimotor sensation.
Have you sprained your ankle several times and ever since your balance sucks?
Why is balance lost after injury?
- There is decreased sensory input to our center of gravity within our limits of stability from:
- Deafferentation (interruption of the afferent nerve cells that send information to your brain from our sensory system)
- Biomechanical deficit:
- Decreased ROM decreases our limits of stability
- Less room for center of gravity sway
- Decreased strength to correct for this sway
- Decrease of neuromuscular
- The loss of automatic movements to correct balance and/or loss of coordination
- Head Injury
- Decreased ability to integrate visual, vestibular and somatosensory systems at central nervous system level
How can you improve your balance?
- Make it safe yet challenging
- Stress multiple planes of motion
- Incorporate a multi-sensory approach: close your eyes, do an upper body movement etc.
- Begin with static, bilateral, stable surfaces and progress to dynamic, unilateral, unstable surfaces
- Progress toward sport specificity: stick handling, kick soccer ball, pass volleyball etc.
Some at home tips to improve your balance:
- When talking on the phone, stand on 1 leg
- Try closing your eyes when working on balance (and stand near a wall for support if needed)
- Stand on a couch cushion or pillow to increase the difficulty
- Try incorporating single leg strengthening exercises at the gym
- Practice yoga! There are lots of single leg stances in yoga
- If you train for a sport, practice a skill you commonly do in that sport on one leg, and even harder do that on a foam pad or BOSU ball
Practice makes perfect! Improved balance will translate into more confidence especially when walking on uneven surfaces such as ice in the Winter or when hiking on uneven terrain. There is no such thing as practicing balance too much, so try incorporating it into your daily life and your body will thank you!