Where Has Your Balance Gone? ~By Theresa Schmidt, Physiotherapist, BScPT
You may have noticed that every decade you get older, your balance decreases. Do you ever watch children play and think to yourself, “I used to have good balance!”.
What has happened to your balance?
A large reason you lose balance is your change in activities as you age. You become more sedentary, spend less time walking, hiking, gardening, or playing sports.You may have had an injury, a hospital stay or surgery which decreases your strength and confidence in your mobility. You then become more cautious/nervous and avoid circumstances which require more balance, ie instead of relying on your legs for balance, you hold on to furniture or the wall.
The only way to maintain balance is to practice! Often seniors are told they should do chair exercise as it is safer.While it is safer, it does nothing to improve your balance which is so important to safety and independence!
Do you know where your balance comes from? It comes from our eyes, ears and joints.
Eyes – try standing with your eyes open and then closed to notice the difference. Your eyes give feedback of your place in space. Glasses, especially bifocals, can alter your feedback. It is important to maintain good vision by having your eyes checked by an eye specialist every year.
Ears – your inner ear has receptors which give your brain feedback on where you are in space. Vertigo is a common condition which impacts balance; it is caused by fluid in the ears. Have your GP check your ears if you are experiencing vertigo.
Joints – your joints have receptors called proprioreceptors which give your brain feedback as to the position of your legs/feet. The good news is that you can improve your balance by exercising your joints and “waking up” these receptors!