Where Does Your Balance go When You Lose it?
By physiotherapist Stacy Benmore
Keeping your balance involves the co-ordination of many systems in the body constantly feeding information to the brain. The brain processes all the information and sends out messages to the individual muscles throughout your body to make continual adaptations and adjustments that help you stay upright. So what happens as the body gets older? I often have questions from clients concerned about falling and the feeling that their balance is lost. Here are some changes that can occur in the body as you age that can affect your balance:
1. Vision declines
2. Somatosensory changes (WHAT??) – the body’s ability to sense the ground or support surface under you can change. This can also be complicated by other issues like diabetes, circulatory issues, stroke, nerve injuries.
3. Decreased muscle strength
4. Decreased muscle flexibility
This is by no means a complete list – there are many things that affect balance and the risk of falling. So, what can you do to maintain balance and decrease your risk of falling? Here are some tips:
• EXERCISE!!! Keep moving so your muscles stay strong and flexible
• Wear supportive footwear and REPLACE it regularly
• Use an assistive device (cane, walker) if you need it – make sure you know how!!
• Get your vision tested regularly and corrected if needed
• Check with your pharmacist or family doctor to see if any medications you take affect your risk of falling
• See a physiotherapist to address any musculoskeletal issues or injuries that may affect your balance and risk of falling
The Studio at Treloar has designed a group exercise program for older adults - it incorporates strengthening & core exercises to make your muscles and bones stronger, allowing you to reach, bend, lift, & carry. Flexibility, agility, and balance exercises are included to keep your joints moving & to reduce your risk of falls.
The take home message here is that you can play a very active role in maintaining your balance – ACTIVITY IS KEY!! Balance can be improved but it takes time. Working with a physiotherapist can provide additional guidance and insight.