June 1, 2020 - Monday

Awareness of Movement is Essential for Balance Training

By Dan Goldstein, PT, O/SCS, ATC, GFS –
Awareness of Movement is Essential for Balance TrainingBalance problems are very common for people of all ages, not just the very young and elderly. Do you find yourself feeling unsteady when you get up from sitting in a chair? Or, when walking on uneven surfaces? Do you tend to drift to one side when walking?
Our sense of balance requires our nervous system to work together using input from the balance center of the inner ear (vestibular input), coordinated with what we see (visual input), and how we feel our body moving (kinesthetic awareness). Disruption of any of these can result in less than ideal movement patterns and possibly a fear of falling.
In my Physical Therapy practice, I have helped many clients regain proper balance, effectively improving their sit-to-stand capability, walking difficulties, and stability problems. Using feedback equipment, such as the Dynamic Balance System (DBS) I help clients fine-tune their balance for sports activities, such as golf. The first step in restoring balance is to properly assess mobility, strength and endurance of the foot/ankle, knee, and hips to assure a stable base of support.
If you suspect that you have a balance problem, you can perform some simple home assessments of your capabilities.
1. Walking in a straight path across the room, are you hitting evenly on each foot or striking the ground harder with one side?
2. As you walk, is the weight going through the middle of each foot or are you using only part of the foot? For example, if your weight is only on the outside of the foot you are using a smaller base of support, potentially making you less stable.
3. Standing next to a counter but not holding on – can you stand on one foot for at least 3 seconds with the weight in the middle of the foot?
If your feet don’t strike the ground evenly with each step, or you place more weight on the outsides of your feet when standing or walking your balance is off.
If left untreated, you are setting yourself up for an increased risk of falls and injuries that could easily be prevented with proper balance training and controlled walking.
Controlled walking is a coordination of repeated single leg stance, which requires muscle control of the hips, pelvis and low back, and stability of the knee/ankle and foot muscles. Relatively minor injuries, such as an ankle sprain, can disrupt our kinesthetic awareness resulting in an altered gait pattern. We also have to be aware of how we stand and control movement; very frequently patients are surprised that their standing balance is significantly one- sided (see picture) so each time they get up from sitting they are not steady.
There are simple exercises you can perform to correct improper balance and gait. If you are interested in my initial home balance exercise routine, e-mail me at spbalance@aol.com or write to 1896 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., West Palm Beach, FL 33409.
Dan Goldstein, MS, PT, OCS, SCS, ATC has been providing care for clients in West Palm Beach since 1984. If I can help answer any questions about the uses and benefits of physical therapy please call me at 561-371-6021 or e-mail me at spbalance@aol.com.

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