The Four Areas of the Body that Control Balance
In the first part of this blog we talked about how important it is to have good balance, and the dangers associated with falls. Due to the dangers associated with falls, it is essential that we start looking at fall prevention treatment to avoid injury or other serious complications. Typically, balance is something that slowly gets worse as we get older, and most people don’t realize how poor their balance is until they have it tested or experience significant symptoms. We will first go over the four areas of the body that control balance, and finish up with tips that you can do at home to help.
The cause of balance disorders can stem from many different parts of the body, but there are 4 major areas that control balance.
The first area is the nerves in our feet and legs that travel up to the area in the brain called the parietal lobe. The nerves in our feet help us stay upright and if we can’t feel our feet properly we are more likely to fall over.
The second area is an area in the brain called the cerebellum. One of the cerebellum’s primary functions is to help control coordination, balance, accuracy and posture. If the cerebellum isn’t working properly than we can still walk, but the walk is staggering or similar to how a drunk person walks around swaying from side to side.
The third area is the equilibrium center in our inner ears. The equilibrium centers help us know what direction we are going, and dysfunction of the equilibrium center can result in vertigo and dizziness symptoms.
The fourth area is our eyes, also known as the visual system. Ever tried walking around in the middle of the night with the lights off? Or try to close your eyes and walk in a straight line? You can see how much our eye sight plays a role with balance.
*If you are having balance problems it is important to be evaluated by a doctor who is familiar with balance disorders.
Tips for At-Home Practice
There are some exercises that we can do at home to help improve our balance is to stand on a wobble board to stimulate our cerebellum, which is vital for balance and coordination. To make it more challenging you can practice standing on one foot, or closing your eyes while on the wobble board. Just make sure you have something to grab onto close by in case you lose your balance.
Tai chi has also been shown to improve balance and muscle control of arms and legs. A great exercise to stimulate the eyes and the equilibrium center in our ears is by fixating on an object while turning your head in different directions. This can be combined while standing on one foot or the wobble board.
There is also specialized therapies that help improve the nerve function in the legs and feet to help improve balance and limit the chance of falls. Home exercises are a good place to start however; a proper neurological evaluation with balance and stability assessments is needed to determine what exercises would benefit you the most.