Watch & Learn: Ways to Improve Your Balance at Home!

Dr. Justin LaLonde, DPT and Dr. Monique Lassaga-Bishop, DPT demonstrate ways to improve your balance at home! Your balance is managed by 3 systems: Sensory system – where you feel Visual system – using your eye sight Vestibular system – inner part of ear that manages your equilibrium 3 Exercises to try at home for … Continue reading “Watch & Learn: Ways to Improve Your Balance at Home!”

Dr. Justin LaLonde, DPT and Dr. Monique Lassaga-Bishop, DPT demonstrate ways to improve your balance at home!

Your balance is managed by 3 systems:

  1. Sensory system – where you feel
  2. Visual system – using your eye sight
  3. Vestibular system – inner part of ear that manages your equilibrium

3 Exercises to try at home for balance improvement:

  • Tandem balance – put on foot in front of the other and hold for 30 seconds, then switch and put the other foot in front
  • Single leg balance – lift one foot up off the ground, hold for 30 seconds then switch
  • Move and tap – using a stair or item with height ( a book, box, etc) slowly move one foot forward to tap the stair and bring it back, then switch to the other foot.
video exercises by Dr. Justin LaLonde PT, DPT and Dr. Monique Lassaga-Bishop PT, DPT.

Fall Prevention

Falls are often overlooked as a harmless topic. Falls cause more than 95% of all hip fractures, the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, and number one cause of harm and resulting death in elderly Americans.  While falls are common, they are preventable. These are some signs that you may need to work on … Continue reading “Fall Prevention”

Falls are often overlooked as a harmless topic. Falls cause more than 95% of all hip fractures, the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, and number one cause of harm and resulting death in elderly Americans. 

While falls are common, they are preventable. These are some signs that you may need to work on your fall prevention strategies in order to keep yourself safe and sound:

  • You find yourself stumbling over objects or your own feet
  • You tend to shuffle your feet when you walk 
  • You hold onto nearby furniture and tall objects to improve confidence with walking
  • You have fallen at least once in the past 6 months  

Here are 5 ways to reduce your risk of falling and potential harm:

  1. PT to improve balance, strength and activity endurance
  2. Fall proof your home
    • Restrain small pets
    • Removed area rugs and any clutter in walkways 
    • Make sure the area is well lit when walking through it 
    • Install handrails in more difficult walking areas such as stairs and bathrooms 
  3. Wear sensible shoes 
    • Avoiding unsafe shoes such as loose slippers of flips flops can reduce risk of falling
  4. Speak with your Doctor about medications which may be causing dizziness 
  5. Use an assistive device 
    • Sometimes an assistive device such as a cane or walker may be necessary based on balance deficits. A Physical Therapist can assess your limitations and help decide which device could best keep you safe.

Here are some exercises you can practice on your own in order to improve your balance:

Single Leg Balance:

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  • Having something sturdy to hold on to next to you in case you lose your balance, stand on one leg. Try to maintain balance for 30 seconds. To make the exercise more difficult try standing on an unstable surface like a pillow, or try closing your eyes. 

Head Rotations:

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  • Stand tall with your feet together. Have a wall or sturdy piece of furniture next to you in case you need to hold on. From here slowly move your head from side to side then up and down while you keep your body still. Do this for 30 seconds and repeat. If you become dizzy, try moving your head more slowly. If you still become dizzy, stop the exercise and speak with your PT about your doctor symptoms. To make the exercises easier, stand with your feet hip width apart. To make the exercise more difficult, try performing with your feet in tandem or on one leg.

Foot Taps:

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  • Stand tall with our feet hip width apart in front of a step of bottom of a staircase. Have a wall or sturdy piece of furniture next to you in case you need to hold on. Do your best not to use your hands while you slowly raise one foot to tap the step in front you, then slowly return it to the floor. Perform 15-20 taps then repeat on the opposite leg. 

If you are unable to do each exercise for 4-5 sec try making it a little easier until you are ready to progress to the next level. If you can do 30 sec each time you try, the exercise is probably too easy for you.

Speak with a Physical Therapist if you feel your balance is becoming unsafe and want a professional recommendation to help you best prevent falls.

Blog researched and written by Dr. Monique Lassaga-Bishop, PT, DPT

 

Balance! Use It or Lose It!

BALANCE AWARENESS MONTH September is Balance Awareness Month! Balance is one of the most important aspects of life that most of us take for granted until we begin to lose it. Take a few moments this month to get familiar with balance! Remember when you were a youngster and fell all the time, and bounced … Continue reading “Balance! Use It or Lose It!”

BALANCE AWARENESS MONTH

September is Balance Awareness Month! Balance is one of the most important aspects of life that most of us take for granted until we begin to lose it. Take a few moments this month to get familiar with balance!

Remember when you were a youngster and fell all the time, and bounced up like nothing happened except for maybe a scrape or small bruise? Well as adults, we tend to fall much less until we reach a certain age. As many as 1 in 4 adults over the age of 65 experience a fall every year.  That’s 25% of human beings!  The risks of falls become greater as we age as well – torn muscles, broken bones, and even head trauma. Balance and steadiness on our feet are concepts we often take for granted when we are younger. However, as we age we can become less stable and with that can come the fear of falling. With aging, muscles begin to atrophy, bones become weaker, and our sense of balance diminishes. But it is possible to train our bodies to become more resilient and prevent falls. 

Balance is the process by which we keep our center of mass over our base of support, whether it is stationary or moving (static vs dynamic), and the ability to make adjustments to stay upright in a given environment. This involves an inherent problem-solving process where our brain and our body interact to provide equilibrium between gravity and ourselves. This process is multidimensional based on the interaction of specifics of the task at hand, constraints imposed by the environment, and individual capabilities. Therefore balance strategies are highly variable between individuals. 

A variety of systems work together to maintain an upright posture: 

  • Musculoskeletal: muscle strength, endurance of muscles, range of motion of specific joints
  • Neuromuscular: the coordination of strength, timing and sequencing of muscular contraction
  • Somatosensory: nerve receptors and the ability to feel and detect changes in surface
  • Visual: provides info about body position and environment
  • Vestibular: our equilibrium system! This serves to stabilize our gaze during head movement and provide info about our head position relative to gravity
  • Cognition: individual awareness, attention, memory, emotion, and judgement all have an effect on postural control and balance

It is the sum of these systems that provides our balance within our environment! Balance impairments begin to occur when pathology or dysfunction is present in one or more of the above systems that alters the relationship between them. Common causes of balance dysfunction include weakness in trunk and legs, tightness in hips and ankles, loss of visual acuity, decreased sensation (especially in the feet and ankles), vestibular disturbances such as vertigo or dizziness, and any change to the nervous system that involves control of our muscles. Many of these balance impairments can be addressed by physical therapy or regular exercise/practice. 

Balance can be broken down into static and dynamic balance. Static is when the body is not moving and dynamic is when the body is in motion. It is important to address both of these in order to keep balance sharp and prevent falls. Here are a few strategies to help keep those systems up to par!

Image result for balance exercises examples

Static Balance Practice: 

  • Standing Feet Together
  • Standing Feet Staggered
  • Standing Feet one in front of the other (tandem stance)
  • Standing on One Leg

* These can all be made harder or easier with closing the eyes, moving the head back and forth, or changing the surface you’re standing on!

Image result for balance exercises examples

Dynamic Balance Practice:

  • Walking
  • Marching in Place
  • Marching while walking forward
  • Walking heel to toe (one foot in front of the other)
  • Turning around in space
  • Walking sideways
  • Walking backwards

Keep in mind everyone will be at different levels of where their balance capacity is. Some things may be easy, some things may be difficult. It really depends on what systems are dominant versus underutilized. Just remember balance is something that CAN BE IMPROVED if practiced. It truly is a USE IT OR LOSE IT kind of deal! 

If balance is a concern for you, come see one of our Physical Therapists at Innovative Physical Therapy. They can help decipher which systems are working well, and which systems may need some work to help improve balance. Life is all about balance, so let us help you stay upright and healthy!

Blog researched and written by Dr. Justin LaLonde PT, DPT