What is Balance ?
Balance is our ability to sustain an upright posture and stable position. There are 2 aspects to balance – static balance (when you are standing still) and dynamic balance (when you are moving around, reaching beyond your feet). Balance is important in all aspects of your life. Having good balance means you won’t fall over, you can reach for things, you can enjoy walking whilst looking around and you can play sport. You’ll notice that kids will challenge their balance all the time, balancing on things in the environment, practicing standing on 1 leg, hopping as part of games. But as adults, we have a more sedentary existence and often don’t challenge our balance as part of every day living. Over time, this causes a decrease in our balance, especially as we get older.
What body systems help us to balance?
There are 4 systems that combine to help us balance. These are:
- Proprioception – this is the feedback we get from our joints and muscles and tells our brain where we are positioned. Our body awareness.
- Visual – our vision helps to keep us balanced by helping to tell our brains where we are, and what is around us.
- Vestibular – This is the system behind your ears, picture a coil filled with water. As you move, the water sloshes around in there and flows past little sensors which tell the brain where and how you are standing.
- Muscular system – you need the strength in your muscles to be able to make little corrections to maintain your balance, or to make large corrections to prevent a fall or trip.
Why is my balance decreased?
As mentioned above, your balance will be decreased if you have not maintained all the systems. So, it may be due to a sedentary lifestyle (use it or lose it), or you’ve had an injury and haven’t completed your rehab including your balance exercises, or it may be due to a problem in one of the body areas that we have mentioned above.
How do we test balance?
You will know from some of your behaviours whether your balance is poor – are you holding on to furniture? Are you having to watch your feet when you walk? Are you tripping over frequently? Do you find it hard to reach for things? You might need a balance assessment.
There are many tests that we as physios use to test your balance depending on your level of fitness and balance. We will challenge you to see where you are at and which systems we need to work on to improve your balance. One test that you can try is to stand on 1 leg – you should be able to stand without holding on for 30 secs on each leg. (Only try this in a safe place where you can hold on if you need – we don’t want you to fall). If this is difficult for you, or you are concerned about your balance, come and see one of our super star physios for a balance assessment.