Factors of Balance

One of the most important factors of health is frequently overlooked. We spend most of our lives trying to stay upright and this factor physically keeps us stable and prevents injury. Do you know what it is? Balance! Humans need balance throughout their whole life; toddlers, elite athletes learning a new skill and even as we get older. Balance is an important skill to have through all ages of life. Unfortunately, sometimes life throws some ‘curve balls’ at us which may affect our balance negatively. Ear infections, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s/MS, diabetes and heart conditions can all affect balance. The ability to know where your body parts are in space is required for every movement we make and there are many factors which can affect this.

Sight:Have you ever noticed that it’s harder to balance in the dark? This is because our eyes play a huge part in balance. Our eyes are able to focus on the horizon and provide feedback to our body to be able to stay upright and move the way we want. Unfortunately, when our sight is impaired (whether is be darkness or a medical condition), this may negatively affect balance. You can’t control medical conditions relating to sight; however, you can control how your body responds to different stimulus. Speak to one of the physiotherapists or exercise physiologists to see how you can improve your balance without worrying about your eyesight.

Vestibular or Inner Ear:If you’ve ever experienced vertigo from an inner ear condition you’ll understand this next concept. Your vestibular system is located inside your ear. This system is filled with a liquid and tiny little hairs which react to changes of movement. When the liquid changes direction, the little hairs move and tell your body that it’s moving. Sometimes it can be ‘confusing’ for the body when the vestibular systems reacts to a change in movement but the eyes don’t sense it…this is motion sickness! So sometimes when you have a medical condition or illness that affects your vestibular condition, this may affect your balance. Speak to one of the physiotherapists if you think you may have an inner ear condition affecting your balance…there are many conservative treatments available that will make you feel much better.

Proprioception/Senses on Your Feet:We have ‘sensor’s in our muscles which provide us with what’s called proprioception or your ability to sense changes in movement. If you have a medical condition which affects your proprioception (like peripheral neuropathy or other nerve conditions or amputation), this may also negatively affect your balance. But don’t worry, your physiotherapist or exercise physiologist is able to prescribe specific exercises to assist with improving your muscles ability to adapt to a situation. This is through improvements in strength, muscular endurance and mobility.

Overall, if you are concerned about your balance. There are many factors which may contribute to this. Your physiotherapist or exercise physiotherapist can assess these factors during your consultation. Improvements in strength, muscular endurance and mobility may assist with improving your balance and overall confidence with certain daily activities.

Try these balance specific exercises below while holding on to the kitchen bench (make sure you are safe). If you ever feel uncomfortable, get a family member to stand beside you while you practice. Try standing with your feet together with light fingertips on the kitchen bench for 30seconds. If all ok, try the Semi Tandem stance…then the tandem stance 30seconds (with each foot in front).

If you have any queries, don’t hesitate to contact one of our friendly staff at Physiotherapy Links.