How to Improve Your Balance
Have you ever wondered how we can easily stand up from a chair and start walking without falling forward? Or how we are able to change directions with ease when walking around. This is because we are able to maintain balance without even thinking about it. Balance is something that we don’t often realize we have until we lose it. There are many factors and systems that play into maintaining balance making it quite complex. Some of those systems include our vestibular system within our inner ears, visual input from our eyes, automatic and learned movements from our cerebellum, and sensory input from our joints and muscles. For the purposes of this blog we will be focusing primarily on the input and action of our joints and muscles that help us maintain balance.
We need our muscles and joints not only to keep us upright and to prevent us from falling over but also strong enough to react quickly when our environment changes or when receiving an action from our brain, eyes, and inner ear. For example. Imagine you are walking along the sidewalk talking to a friend but you start to drift towards the edge of the curb. The combination of your eyes, brain, and inner ear will alert you that are becoming off balance as you step off the curb. This then sends a signal to you core muscles to tense up and to shift more weight to the opposite leg of the curb to keep you from not tipping over. However, if you don’t have strong core or leg muscles you can imagine that when those groups receive a signal and are unable to respond quickly or strong enough this could result in a fall.
Ways that you can increase the strength in your abdominal core muscles are participating in yoga or Pilates at home or in a class. Other ways are using an exercise ball or a wobble board. For more designated abdominal core exercises you can do planks and leg lifts.
When it comes to our stabilizing leg muscles you can start with toe raises, back leg raises, and knee curls using a chair or table to help assist you. Once you feel more comfortable you and try heel-to-toe walking and single leg standing. You can start out slow with 10-15 second intervals of maintaining balance and building upwards. For more designated leg muscle strengthening you can try lunges, leg curls, leg extensions, and step ups.
Balance is a complex system and even if you are maintaining the strength of your muscles and still find yourself having difficulty keeping your balance when up walking around and transitioning from different positions it could be that there is a disconnect from one of the systems outside of your muscles and joints. One of those disconnections could be within your spine. Some patients can have pinching, also referred to as stenosis, along the spinal cord which causes a disconnect from our brain to our stabilizing muscles. If this is the case, here at Twin Cities Spine Center we have multiple skilled providers to help guide your through that process of evaluation and treatment of this imbalance.
Balance is a blend of signals and reactions within our bodies and hopefully this blog helps you gain a better understanding of how maintaining our muscles and joints can play a role at keeping us all upright and moving.
“The Human Balance System.” VeDA, 21 May 2021, https://vestibular.org/article/what-is-vestibular/the-human-balance-system/the-human-balance-system-how-do-we-maintain-our-balance/.
Julie Floyd Jones Updated November 22, 2021. (n.d.). 4 ways to improve your balance, according to a personal trainer. EatingWell. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://www.eatingwell.com/article/7917613/exercises-to-improve-balance/