When thinking about physical therapy exercises, a handful of individuals often times think about strengthening and stretching exercises — the most notable exercises that a handful of individuals do at the gym.
But what about balance? Did you know your physical therapist can assist in improving your balance with specific exercises?
If you have fallen, then you clearly understand how important it is to keep your balance as you walk or sit. An experienced Palmdale Physical Therapist is a movement expert who can help you improve your balance so you can easily maintain safe functional mobility.
Individuals who may engage in balance exercises might include the following:
- Older people with limited functional mobility
- People who have fallen
- Individuals with neurological conditions, such as a stroke, that may cause balance impairments
- Athletes who are injured
- People who have had surgery
- People with vertigo
Most Palmdale Physical Therapist will tell you that when you first meet your physical therapist, he or she may assess your balance.
If it is easily figured out that your balance is impaired, our Palmdale Physical Therapist say that a treatment strategy may be developed that includes exercises to help improve your balance to maximize your safe functional mobility.
Where Does Balance Come From?
Three systems in your body work together to help you stay upright with outstanding balance. Some of these include:
- Your visual system
- Your vestibular system in your inner ear
- Your proprioceptive system in your muscles and joints
First, your visual system works to provide your brain data about where your body is in relation to your environment.
People with impaired vision may have a hard time with balance due to the inability to see exactly where they are. When assessing your balance, your physical therapist may ask about your vision and if you wear corrective lenses.
Making revisions to your vision or corrective lenses falls outside of the scope of practice for physical therapists, but your local Palmdale Physical Therapist may recommend you visit an eye doctor to make sure that your eyes are working optimally.
Your vestibular system is located in your inner ear, and it works to provide your brain information about the position of your head. The vestibular structures (you have one on each side of your head) act like tiny levels.
They are filled with fluid, and as you move and turn your head, the fluid rushes to one side of the vestibular structure and activates the nerves there.
These nerves then communicate with your brain, telling it the position of your head. Damage or an impairment with your vestibular system may result in vertigo, or spinning sensations, as you move your head.
Your proprioceptive system is a group of specialized nerve endings in your muscles, tendons, and joints of your body. These nerves communicate with your brain, telling it when and how a muscle is contracting, as well as information about position sense.
An injury, surgery, or a neurological condition may impair your proprioception, leading to decreased balance.
Your Palmdale Physical Therapist can assess these three systems and figure out the factors that may lead to impaired balance. Then, he or she can prescribe specific exercises to help improve your balance.
How You Can Improve Balance
Your body can drastically change and grow in response to specific balance exercises, and this can lead to improved balance and safe functional mobility.
Four basic balance exercises that your Palmdale Physical Therapist might prescribe include the following. Make sure to check with your doctor prior to beginning these, or any other exercise, for your balance:
- Single leg stance: Discover something stable to hold onto, and then lift one foot off the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds, and then repeat with the other foot. Most local Palmdale Physical Therapist will tell you that you can higher the challenge by letting go of the stable object you are holding or by closing your eyes while standing on one foot.
- Tandem walking with a heel-to-toe pattern: Standing upright, walk forward by placing one heel directly in front of the toes on the opposite foot. Walk forward for 10 paces. You can make this more challenging by walking backward in a toe-to-heel pattern. Be sure something stable, such as you your kitchen counter, is close by for safety.
- Walking with an assortment of head motions: Walk forward for 10 paces while turning your head left and right, scanning across the room as you walk. Then, walk forward while nodding your head up and down. The changing visual field will challenge your balance and equilibrium systems.
- Altering your visual system as you move to challenge your balance: Print out a checkerboard design or any other design that can create altered visual images. Our Palmdale Physical Therapist suggest you tape this design to the wall, and walk forward toward it while staring directly at the design. Next, walk backward, keeping your eyes focused on the design. This altered visual field can challenge your equilibrium and overall balance.
Your local Palmdale Physical Therapist may use special pieces of exercise equipment to help challenge your balance as well. These may include:
- The BAPS board
- A wobble board
- Spongy pieces of foam
- Videos that challenge your visual system
Our Palmdale Physical Therapist say that the key to improving your balance is to create situations that challenge your balance. This helps your body’s systems adapt and change, hopefully leading to improved balance and muscular control.
Something to be aware of: Creating situations that make your balance more difficult may lead to falls while you are doing the exercise.
Our Palmdale Physical Therapist suggest you should only perform balance exercises that are safe for you to do.
Working very closely with your Palmdale Physical Therapist can ensure that you do the right exercises that challenge your balance while still maintaining safety.
First Steps to Improving Balance with Physical Therapy
If you have fallen or feel like your balance is impaired, you should check in with your doctor for an assessment. Ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist for a complete balance evaluation.
Your Palmdale Physical Therapist can check things out and get you started on the path to improving your balance.
In addition, you may also be able to visit your physical therapist via direct access; no doctor’s referral is needed, so if you feel like you want to learn some new balance exercises, just call your local Palmdale Physical Therapist and explain your needs.