Balance Building Blocks
Over the last six months, Nancy had taken two tumbles. Fortunately, she had not suffered anything worse than a bruise on her hip and an injured ego. She brought in an advertisement for a balance training device and asked me if it would improve her balance. Nancy attended the gym three days a week and lived a fairly active life. After an evaluation of her balance, she was instructed on a series of drills that addressed her needs. No special equipment was necessary and she could perform the routine at home and at the gym. Four weeks later, Nancy returned for a re-evaluation and was happy to have improved on all of the balance tests. Nancy felt that this was the most valuable aspect of her fitness training and requested I send an email to her fellow fitness participants.
Your balance can get better.
Balance, just like functional mobility, strength, and muscle mass starts declining at around age thirty and unless you do something, it gets worse as you age. The older you get, the more likely you are to have some degree of balance impairment. As the American population ages, injuries from falls have become a more common cause of long-term disability and death. The good news is that no other parameter of performance can improve as quickly as balance.
You need to start with why.
The reason one person is having a balance issue is going to be different than why another person is having a balance problem. Start with an evaluation provided by a professional to determine the driver of the balance problem and work on a custom exercise
prescription to resolve the performance deficit. Balance is a multi-system endeavor that requires input from the position sensors in the joints, inner ear, and vision. Identifying the most limited component provides the biggest balance benefit.
You need daily practice.
Enhancing neuromotor control takes daily practice. Carve out five minutes at the beginning of your fitness routine or daily walk. Depending on your balance problem, many of the drills can be performed during daily chores. I practice my balance drills while working at my standing desk.
Nancy had two significant findings. Poor lower leg sensory awareness and postural deficits. Her balance restoration routine consisted of activities to improve neural control in her feet and ankles as well as posture correction drills. The entire routine took five minutes to perform.
In four weeks, her single leg balance test improved from ten seconds to thirty seconds.
Single leg step-up improved from a zero score to success on a twelve inch step.
Chronic right-side lower back pain has resolved. She saved the $160.00 cost of a balance trainer.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS