It’s what gives us the ability to walk on two legs and stays with us our entire life, balance. Our balance and vestibular system develop as we grow from a baby all the way through adulthood, and then begin to decline. Most people don’t know their balance is not optimum until they suffer a sports injury, trip and fall, or lose their balance in the shower. No matter what your age, balance affects your ability to be active.
Can you do this?
- Stand next to a counter or sink barefoot with your hand gently grasping the counter surface.
- Put one foot directly in front of the other, so that one heel is touching the opposite toes.
- Gently lift your hand up, but keep it close to the counter in case you need to grab it quickly. Try to hold this for 10 seconds (only do this if you feel safe or have someone nearby to help you).
- Now try it with you eyes closed.
- Do you wobble a lot or even lose your balance? Your balance needs work!
There are many reasons for our decline in balance:
- Changes in our vestibular system
- Changes in muscle mass, flexibility and strength
- Changes in eyesight
- Diminishing reflexes
- Previous injuries to ankle, knee, hip or spinal joints
How balance affects sports performance
The more aggressive you are in sports, the better your balance and reflexes have to be. Many ankle, knee, hip and back injuries in running, tennis and other sports are attributed to poorly performing balance. By incorporating simple balance exercises into your workout routine, you can set yourself up for success and prevent injuries, as well as enhance your sports performance.
How balance affects back pain
How you walk directly impacts your back and can actually be a big contributor to back pain. By improving balance, coordination and strength in your hips, pelvis and legs, your spine will be supported and guided, reducing strain. This in turn, helps your back function normally without aggravation and inflammation. Balance activities are an important component of our SPINE Program for relieving back pain.
According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), over 2.5 million adults were treated for nonfatal injuries in emergency departments in 2013. In older adults, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries. Most people don’t think about keeping their balance in shape, until it is too late and they fall, fracturing an arm, leg or injuring their back. The good news is that most falls can easily be prevented, simply by the regular exercising of your balance system.
What you can do
You can improve your balance, and it involves performing simple balance exercises. Try this easy exercise to strengthen your balance:
- Stand facing and lightly touching a wall with your hands.
- Slowly raise up and down on your toes.
- Repeat 10 times, rest, then do 2-3 more sets.
- Try without holding on for a greater challenge.
The first step in preventing an injury or fall is testing your balance and being honest with yourself that your balance needs work. Our physical therapists can make a big difference in improving your balance and vestibular system, improving your ability to be active, safely. Call Hess Physical Therapy today to learn more about our specialized programs and how you can get back to an active, pain free lifestyle!