“I am fearful. I have a history of falling, and I don’t want to fall ever again.”
Would you believe me if I said you can “strengthen” your balance? Doesn’t seem right, does it? How do you “strengthen” your balance? Balance works just like our muscles. Remember the saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”? Well, truer words have never been spoken.
Balance is primarily made up of three main components: vision (your eyes), equilibrium (your inner ear), and lower extremity strategies (ankles, hips, and stepping). Complications in any of these areas will affect your balance.
The strategies that allow you to maintain balance are ankle, hip and stepping strategy. The ankles are built in such a way they can move in all directions which creates the first line of defense in maintaining balance. Stability moves up the leg and into the hip. If weakness is present in hips, knees, and/or ankles, you’ll notice poor balance as your lines of defense are not adequately prepared. Your hips help move your trunk to adjust your center of gravity in order to maintain your balance. If the hips are weak or immobile, this will cause limitations with balance as well. The final line of defense is the stepping strategy. This means your ankles and hips could not act quick enough to defend you from falling, so you had to take a step out to catch yourself. It is at this point when falls most commonly occur.
Now, I’m not saying just start working out your ankles and hips and all of sudden your balance will miraculously improve. No, there is more to the equation, but with every case we need a first base; somewhere to begin. When assessing why someone’s balance is poor or why their stability is lacking, we will visit these three components first.
1. How is your vision? Are you heavily dependent on your vision?
2. How is your equilibrium? Do you suffer from any vestibular symptoms?
3. What’s your strength and mobility look like? Specifically in your legs?
(Note: If you do happen to suffer from dizziness or vertigo, many of our Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy offices have a therapist who is certified and able to assist with these symptoms!)
As falls do seem to be a more common issue for the older population, poor balance and stability can be an issue in the younger generations as well, even athletes. If there are muscle imbalances or if someone has poor core stability, balance may be hindered. Treating and conquering these issues is possible and you may notice improvements within just a few visits. The key is learning where your deficits are and how to overcome those areas. Any of our Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy clinics would be happy to assist you in getting back on your feet, confidently!
Call 616.256.8679 or visit https://www.hjphysicaltherapy.com/request-appointment/ to schedule an appointment.