The Balancing Act

Posted by on Jun 2, 2017 in Physiotherapy, Pilates | No Comments

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard ‘I have bad balance’. When assessing a lower limb injury, I often look at someone’s single leg balance. When I do this, I am looking at how well a person can stabilise through their foot, ankle, knee and hip.

What is balance?

Balance is the ability to maintain your centre of gravity (vertical line from centre of mass) within your base of support with minimal postural sway. A healthy balance system allows us to see clearly while moving, identifying our orientation with respect to gravity, determining direction and speed of movement, and the ability to make automatic postural adjustments to maintain posture and stability in various conditions and activities. Maintaining balance requires coordination of input from multiple sensory systems that send information to our brain about our body’s position.

Vestibular system 

Also known as the ‘inner ear’ sends the brain information about our head position, whether it is turning, whether you moving forwards/backwards, up/down. One example of a condition affecting balance in this category is BPPV.

Somatosensory System

There are sensors around our joints and muscles which tell the brain about the movement or position of different body parts relative to each other.

Visual System

Our vision provides important visual cues to the brain by identifying how a person is oriented relative to other objects in our external environment.

Once this information is received, it is interpreted by the brain and signals are then sent to our muscles that control our eyes, head and neck, trunk, arms and legs, thus allowing us to maintain our balance while we move. What an amazing feedback loop! However, as you can imagine, damage or injury to any of the above sensory systems (inner ear, joints/muscles/skin/eyesight) or our output systems (muscles), can affect our balance

If you think you have ‘bad balance’ see your Physio at Bend + Mend to help figure out which part of this feedback loop is the problem.

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