Author: Justine Cosman, PT, DPT : Doctor of Physical Therapy, Business Owner, Associate Professor, and Blog Contributor. Explores common client questions and helps find solutions for every day functional health concerns, and then some. Loves empowering others, seeking adventure, and learning every day. Learn more about Justine on Google+.
Bryan and I had a great opportunity to volunteer at a local assisted living community and provide individualized balance assessment screens. Apart from being rewarding, it also was eye-opening to see each individual’s perception of their balance and how they actually performed with each of the challenges. A few were better than expected, but the majority believed their balance was better than it actually was. It was a nice reminder of what we see in the clinic all the time – different body compensations that reduce the body’s ability to balance beyond just normal activities of daily living. This reduction in balance can lead to unnecessary wear-and-tear on the body and also sets you up for potential injury in the future.
Balance is affected and perceived by multiple areas of the body. This includes the vestibular system (inner ear), vision, and proprioception (the receptors in your joints, ligaments and muscles) that are all conveyed through nerves and perceived by the brain. If the body is lacking in any of these areas, often the other senses will pick up the slack and compensate. This is seen most frequently in the clinic with clients significantly relying on vision with inability to appropriately react with the proprioceptive system. This is a problem, however, if vision is poor, whether from not having the appropriate eyewear to it just being dark outside.
With this in mind, we wanted to present you with a similar challenge to see where you stack up. If you find any of these activities to be difficult or uncomfortable, contact your physical therapist for ways to improve to keep you moving in the right direction.
*Disclaimer* Please use your discretion to use a countertop for support as needed or to obtain assistance from an able-individual to ensure that you do not get injured with these activities. Should you not feel able or are at all hesitant, DO NOT perform these exercises.
Single Leg Stance: See how long you can stand on one leg while trying to maintain a level pelvis (i.e. don’t let your hips dip!). Then try the other side.
Single Leg Stance with Eyes Closed: Same form as before, but this time close your eyes. Should you feel yourself losing balance, open your eyes and put your foot down.
Tandem Standing: Stand with one heel directly in line with the opposite toes, as though you are walking on a tight-rope, and see how long you can maintain this stance. Then perform with the opposite foot forward.
Functional Reach: Tape a yard stick on the wall (painter’s tape works well). Start in standing with your arms out straight with your finger tips at the beginning of the yard stick. From there, lean forward at the waist as far as you can forwards without loosing balance, taking note of where the tips of your fingers end up.
Walking With Head Turning: For a distance of 10 feet, try to walk forward normally while turning your head back and forth every step or two. The goal is to not stumble, change your walking speed or moving outside of a 12 inch barrier.
Here are the norms for each decade from 30s to 80s: click here for the chart!
So how did you do? Did you do as well as you initially thought? Do you have some areas in which to improve? We would be happy to help! Contact us with any questions or concerns today!