Every year in the U.S. one third of men and women over the age of 65 will experience a fall. Is someone in your life at risk of falling? Maybe you, yourself would like to improve your balance. Read on to learn about how your brain communicates with your body to keep you upright and safe! And if you do have friends, parents or grandparents that have a higher risk of falling, please share these tips with them.
There are all sorts of things that can lead to a fall- from cluttered living spaces to changes in medications to chronic disease like Parkinson’s. Some factors are easier to prevent than others. Today we will discuss our sense of balance.
Balance is a function of the brain that when working properly we hardly notice, but when it is lost, is a major contributor to falls. Let’s talk about how it works and how to keep it healthy!
Our brain gets messages from three systems when attempting to keep us upright and steady
The Visual System: our eyes see where our head and body are in relation to the world
The Vestibular System: organs in our inner ear tell our brain about the direction of movement of our head
The Proprioceptive System: cells in our muscles, tendons and ligaments respond to stretch and pressure and tell our brain where our feet, legs and body are in relation to each other and to the ground
Your brain wants harmony between all the information from those systems. The brain hates conflict. If there is an issue with the message from one of those systems, you may feel dizzy or off-balance.
There are many exercises and protocols out there to improve the specific relationships between these systems.
A simple and effective exercise to add to your daily routine if you are feeling unstable is the Stork (or One Leg Balance). Here’s how it goes
Stand up straight and lift your left knee so your foot comes off the ground. Slowly count to 30 and stop the first time you
Put your foot down
Wave your arms
Dance or shift your body out of alignment in order to balance
NOTE: How long can you balance on your leg?
Repeat on the other side
If this was difficult for you, if you were not able to last 30 seconds, then PRACTICE. Do the stork for 30 seconds on each leg, three times per day with your best upright posture.
If you feel unbalanced now it does NOT mean you have to feel that way forever. It is not a “normal” part of aging, or at least it does not have to be.
If you or someone in your family is feeling a lack of balance or is worried about falls, let me know! We will make a plan to prevent that from happening!
As always, please email or call with questions!