What are the problems with poor balance?
Poor balance has many side effects beyond the obvious feeling of unsteadiness and higher incidence of falls. Whether you’re an elite athlete or starting to notice your age, you should be focussing on balance. You’ll notice that after a lower limb injury you’ll receive some form of balance exercise from your Central City Physiotherapist.
Extremely poor static balance does increase your fall risk. Falls unfortunately have nasty consequences. These include fractures of hips, pelvis and back. Often these fractures lead to surgery and the subsequent physical rehabilitation to resume as functional life as possible. The fractured neck of femur (hip) is an extremely common consequence of falls in older women and can often be the beginning of a barrage of problems – SO REDUCE THE RISK OF FALLS!!
Less obvious is the deficit in dynamic balance. Impaired dynamic balance results in poor muscle and joint control. These result in instability related conditions. These dynamic instabilities can result in back pain, sciatica, hip pain, bursitis, knee or even foot and ankle pain. Poor dynamic stability in your upper back and shoulder blades can very easily lead to shoulder problems.
Reduced sporting performance. In addition to a higher chance of injury your sporting performance is commonly reduced due to reduced dynamic stability. It makes sense that your muscle power, joint control and skill accuracy all deteriorates when muscles are not working off a stable platform. Watch the upper body and pelvis of an Olympic runner and compare to your recreational runner, the Olympian looks solid as a rock whereas the recreational runner generally has a bit of a ‘pelvic wiggle’. – This is not good for the bit that “wiggles” and can cause micro-trauma to the area. – It also means you lose power through this area so your performance will be reduced.
How to improve your balance
With consistent practice, you will be able to improve your balance over time.
Static balance is important for everyday life. The ability to stand on one leg should be easily achieved by everyone. Without this ability your chance of falling is high. If you can’t control your stationary body, you’ll have no chance at high speed or load. You can practice static balance brushing your teeth or washing your hands standing on one leg!
Test your balance system further by closing your eyes and maintaining your single leg balance. Once again, this should be easily achieved. If not, you are using your visual system to assist your poor vestibular balance mechanism – but don’t panic, keep calm and carry on practicing and you will improve!
Dynamic balance is even more important when you start to move whether that be walk, jog, jump or throw. The more demands and speed you place on your body the better your dynamic balance system needs to be able to cope.
Balance improvement is reliant upon good deep core stability, hip and leg muscle control PLUS your vestibular and visual systems.
In most cases, your balance deficits can be quickly improved with specific balance or stability exercises. We can also help with exercises to improve your vestibular and visual systems.
Please ask your physiotherapist to test your static or dynamic balance if you are concerned about your balance. Together, we can make a BIG difference VERY QUICKLY to help you avoid falls, injury or improve your sporting performance.
How can we help with your balance?
Research has shown that balance retraining works. A few weeks of progressed balance exercises can significantly improve your balance reactions.
We can assess your level of balance whether you are at risk of falls (using the Berg Balance scale) or a high performance athlete – using more dynamic measures.
Once we know your level of performance we can custom make an exercise programme to help you achieve your goals. You’ll need to work at this at home and as you improve we’ll progress the exercises to keep you challenged.
There are lots of products we use to help you exercise balance improvement:
- Wobble board
- Foam pads
- Air discs
- Bosun Balls
- Swiss balls