Did you know that 1/3 of people over the age of 65 have experienced a fall within the past 12 months? Scarily, the majority of falls of falls have been shown to occur in or around the home. However, balance re-training has been proven to greatly reduce the likelihood of falling and associated injuries.
What helps with balance?
Balance is reliant on a number of body systems working in sync with one another. These include the vestibular system (inner ear), vision, muscular system and awareness of your body position (known as proprioception). Problems with balanced and an increased risk of falls can occur when one or more of the systems is not working optimally.
A range of issues can impair these systems including:
- Muscle weakness.
- Poor joint mobility.
- Inner ear issues.
- Certain medications.
- Decreased physical activity.
How can physiotherapists assess balance?
Physiotherapists are well placed to assess balance and likelihood of falls. Physical tests including gait assessment, balance tests and strength tests will provide insight into balance. These tests thoroughly assess both static and dynamic balance.
Static balance tests will assess balance whilst in stationary positions. This can include differences in balance whilst standing with eyes closed, uneven surfaces or on one leg at a time. Without static balance, your likelihood of falling whilst moving or under loading is greatly increased. The average person can stand on one leg for more than 34 seconds.
Dynamic balance tests will identify your likelihood of falling whilst moving. Your physiotherapist is able to assess this through a range of functional or walking based tests.
How can I improve my balance?
Decreased balance and risk of falls is not normal for ageing. Balance re-training and exercise has been proven to reduce the likelihood of falls by improving strength, endurance and reflex responses. At times, these exercises can be challenging and slightly outside your comfort zone. With balance retraining, it is important to push your limits in a safe and comfortable zone.
Exercises can include both supervised exercise such as clinical pilates or strength training, through to independent exercises which can be performed at home. Practicing balance will gradually reduce the likelihood of falling and ultimately build up strength and confidence.
A simple balance exercise to try at home is to practice balancing without visual feedback. Try standing in an upright position with your eyes closed for as long as possible. To make the exercise more difficult, try standing with your feet together or on one leg at a time. Importantly, remember if you are performing balance exercises at home, use a secure and safe area of the house.
Get your balance assessed today by our team at Malvern East Physiotherapy. Call us on 9571 6888 or book online. You will be surprised at how quickly and efficiently your balance can be improved with practice.