Build Your Balance: Part 2
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If you did your testing and have been doing your exercises for a couple of weeks now you may be wondering what the next step is in getting better balance.
Balance is made up of several systems working together:
inner ear (vestibular system)
strength (legs particularly)
proprioception (your ankle’s ability to communicate what is happening at the joint without you having to look at them all the time.
In the previous segment we discussed your leg strength. You had 2 tests to complete and then some exercises that would help you improve the strength in your ankles and legs. If you are consistent with those (4-6x /wk) you should begin to see some changes around 6 weeks. If you are already in good shape, exercise regularly and even lift weights on occasion you may not see significant changes with just the 2 exercises I gave you. If you have difficulty with them you should see improvement in the 6 weeks, therefore strength changes have occurred!
To address all the systems involved with balance, you should have an eye exam. When the other systems mentioned above are impaired, we begin relying on our vision more and more. When our vision is impaired, our overall balance suffers. Depth perception is one key in functioning balanced. If you wear bi-focals or transitional lenses your sense of depth, particularly in descending steps, is skewed. It is important to realize that as our vision changes our balance does too!
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Meniere’s, vertigo, BPPV, or other vestibular disorder, know that a physical therapist trained in this area can help. SMSMPT has therapist to help with dizziness, vertigo and balance disorders.
To train your proprioception it is recommended that you do so in a safe corner!
A safe corner is a corner in your home that has a sturdy chair with nothing behind it. You will slip behind the chair to do your exercises. Make sure there is space for you to stand without touching the walls or the chair in front of you. If you lose your balance doing the exercises you will be “caught” by the wall or you will grab the sturdy chair in front of you to balance yourself.
feet staggered with one slightly ahead of the other but in the same alignment with the hip on the same side.
Feet staggered with the heel from one foot touching the toes of the other
Stand on one leg with the other leg bent and resting in a hanging position, not hooked to your body.
Note on exercise progression: You will work through all 3 steps in position #1 before you move on to position #2. Then work through all 3 steps for several days or weeks in position #2 before moving on to position 3 and so on.
Steps to progression:
Can you hold this position without touching anything for 20-30 sec?
If so ,progress to turning your head side to side X 5. One turn to the left and then to the right is considered one. Perform 5 of these without holding on or losing your balance. When you can accomplish 5 sets of this exercise without losing your balance for 5 days in a row progress to #3.
Eyes closed. Maintain the chosen position with eyes closed X 20 sec. When you lose your balance open your eyes and hold to the chair.