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Improving Balance and Preventing Falls

    As a physiotherapist, one of the most common issues I encounter in my patients is imbalance. But what is balance, and why is it so important?

    What is balance?

    Balance is the ability to maintain your body’s center of mass over its base of support. In other words, it’s the ability to control your body’s movements and stay upright without falling.

    Balance is a complex process that involves various systems in the body, including the eyes, inner ear, and nervous system. It’s also closely linked to coordination, proprioception (the ability to sense where your body is in space), and muscle strength.

    Having good balance is crucial for everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, and even standing still. It’s also important for preventing falls, which can lead to serious injuries in older adults.

    Causes of imbalance

    There are many factors that can contribute to imbalance, including:

    • Age-related changes: As we get older, our balance and coordination can start to decline. This is due to changes in the inner ear and a decrease in muscle strength.
    • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, can affect balance.
    • Medications: Some medications, such as sedatives or antidepressants, can cause dizziness or drowsiness, leading to imbalance.
    • Poor vision: Difficulty seeing can make it harder to maintain balance, especially in dimly lit or unfamiliar environments.
    • Poor footwear: Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or provide adequate support can increase the risk of falls.
    • Environmental factors: Tripping hazards, such as uneven surfaces or slippery floors, can also contribute to balance issues.

    Treatments for imbalance

    If you’re experiencing balance problems, it’s important to see a physiotherapist for an assessment. A physiotherapist can assess your balance and recommend the appropriate treatment plan.

    Treatment options for balance issues may include:

    • Vestibular rehabilitation: This type of therapy focuses on retraining the inner ear and brain to improve balance. It may include exercises to improve coordination, eye movements, and balance.
    • Muscle strengthening: Strengthening the muscles in your legs, hips, and core can help improve balance and stability. Your physiotherapist can provide specific exercises to target these areas.
    • Balance training: Activities such as standing on one foot, or using a balance board can help improve balance and coordination.
    • Environmental modifications: Making changes to your home or workspace, such as removing tripping hazards or improving lighting, can also help prevent falls and improve balance.

    Exercises for balance

    Incorporating balance exercises into your daily routine can help improve your balance and reduce the risk of falls. Here are a few examples of balance exercises you can try at home:

    • Single-leg stance: Stand on one leg and hold the position for 30 seconds, or as long as you can. Aim to maintain your balance safely without holding onto anything. Repeat on the other leg.
    • Heel-to-toe walk: Walk in a straight line, placing the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other foot. Aim to maintain your balance without any support.
    • Standing on a foam pad or cushion: Stand on a foam pad or cushion with both feet. Aim to maintain your balance without holding onto anything.
    • Tai chi: This gentle exercise involves slow, controlled movements that can improve balance and coordination.

    When to seek online physiotherapy

    If you’re experiencing balance problems or have a history of falls, it’s important to seek the advice of a physiotherapist. Online physiotherapy can be a convenient and effective option for improving balance and reducing the risk of falls. Online physiotherapy allows you to receive expert guidance and support from the comfort of your own home. Your physiotherapist can provide a personalized treatment plan, including specific exercises and recommendations for environmental modifications.

    If you’re not sure if online physiotherapy is right for you, it’s always best to consult with a physiotherapist. They can assess your balance and determine the best course of action to improve your stability and prevent falls. Don’t let balance problems hold you back. With the help of a physiotherapist and the convenience of online physiotherapy, you can improve your balance and stay active and independent.

    Through KBPhysio, we see clients virtually throughout British Columbia for their physiotherapy needs. Together, we’ll develop a plan that aims to teach your body new movement patterns so as to allow you to take part in life and recreational activities that are most enjoyable to you. We offer free consultations over phone and zoom to talk through any questions you may have.

    Further Readings