A state of equilibrium, or better yet, balance – the ability to hold your center of mass with minimal postural sway, or the ability to hold your self up without falling.
Not the most important thing that someone would think of when it comes to your health, but don’t take this balance stuff lightly. Take for instance, one study done on a population of 320,000 people found that 15,500 will have a balance problem and fall each year, 2,200 of those falls will visit the emergency room and 1,250 people will have a fracture of some type of bone with 360 of those fractures being a hip fracture.
Balance requires good coordination and multiple systems working together, which include vision, vestibular system, sensation and strength. The vestibular system within the ear sends directional information to the brain that relates to head position. Vision allows us to see we are level and know we are upright. Sensation, the ability to not only feel the floor you are walking on but also the ability to feel the change in position of joints and movement of joints. Strength is being able to control the position you are in and react to body changes in position.
These systems change as we age, suffer injuries, and disease. We can lose sensation from diabetes, lose strength from a stroke or other neurological conditions, and even our vision can decrease. But, here’s the good news, balance is something we can improve. Physical therapist often treat balance with exercises involving, stance, movements, changing surfaces, points of contact, head position, eyes open and eyes closed. But balance loss and dizziness can also be symptoms of other underlying problems. So check with your physical therapist or primary care physician.
For more information or questions, please call St. Francis Healthcare Campus Rehabilitation/Medical Wellness Center at 218-643-0345.
Brian Lynch is aphysical therapist at St. Francis Healthcare Campus in Breckenridge, Minn.