When someone has a problem with their balance, we often point to the inner ear as the source of the issue or a “communication” glitch between the eye and the ear. Yet, your body’s system of maintaining its mass over the base of support is a complex interaction that also relies on your skeletal system, bones, joints and muscles.
“The muscles, skin and joints contain receptors that sense a stretch or a change in pressure,” says McLeod Outpatient Rehabilitation Director Harriet Jeffords. “When your legs and arms move, they send impulses to the brain, where this input is added to what the eyes see and inner ear senses. If it’s working right we maintain our direction, posture and speed of movement.”
Good balance is essential for climbing stairs without tripping, driving a car, going grocery shopping, or just bending over without falling.
When a part of this intricate system falters, so do we. Dizziness and nausea can be followed by tripping or falling. Experts believe that more than 4 out of 10 Americans will experience dizziness at sometime in their life that will be bad enough to send them to a physician. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 out of 3 people over age 65 will fall each year, making falls the leading cause of injury-related deaths among older adults.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Start by evaluating your daily activities. Do you spend most of your day sitting? By living a sedentary lifestyle, you are essentially telling your body and brain that you don’t need good balance. Your body will adapt or deteriorate accordingly.
To maintain your sense of balance, you need to exercise your arm and leg bones, muscles and joints that keep you stable and steady. Take some stairs, walk in the park or the mall, do some simple outside yard work, or join a health club.
The movement – walking, stooping, lifting, bending, turning – will keep your bones, muscles and joints flexible and ready to respond.
Balance issues can also be a sign of a deteriorating knee or hip joint. So, don’t ignore the problem.
Eliminate tripping and falling errors in your home. Look for uneven steps, small rugs, and stairs with no handrails.
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Found out how your body is responding with a balance screening from McLeod Outpatient Rehabilitation Services. Call 843-777-5139.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Vestibular Disorders Association, National Institutes of Health, Royal Victorian Hospital