What are Balance Exercises?
Balance exercises balance is an ability to maintain the line of gravity (vertical line from centre of mass ) of a body within the base of support with minimal postural sway.
Balance exercises will challenge the body’s vestibular system (system is behind ear), somatosensory and visual systems which work on musculoskeletal (muscle, bone and joint) system.
1) Vestibular system: sense organs that regulate equilibrium (equilibrioception); directional information as it relates to head position (internal gravitational, linear, and angular acceleration)
2) Somatosensory system: senses of proprioception and kinesthesia of joints; information from skin and joints (pressure and vibratory senses); spatial position and movement relative to the support surface; movement and position of different body parts relative to each other
3) Visual system: senses the verticality of body and head motion; spatial location relative to objects
We aim to improve the body’s ability to maintain posture and centre of gravity and to improve muscle reaction time and joint proprioception.
Who would benefit from Balance Exercises?
Many people would benefit from a physiotherapy assessment and balance exercise programme. People with the following conditions and injuries would benefit from balance exercises:
1) Pre surgery – improve balance as a period of immobility may follow which would decrease balance post operatively
2) Post-surgery – as immobility can decrease balance
3) Following surgery – lower limb affects gait and upper limb surgery will be guarded therefore can alter balance
4) Ligament sprain and muscle strain (especially close to joints) – this can affect the body’s proprioceptive receptors affecting balance
5) Elderly population who have reduced mobility
6) Neurological conditions – Parkinson’s disease
7) Head injuries.
What are the benefits of Balance Exercises?
If you have balance problems a physiotherapy assessment and balance exercises programme will be beneficial to you.
There are many benefits of balance exercises which are:
• Improved static balance
• Improved dynamic balance
• Improved joint proprioception
• Improved muscle reaction time – increasing the body’s ability to react to balance challenging situations.
Reduced risk of falls
• Improved function – tasks can be done outside of the base of support without risk
• Decreased muscle compensation – muscles can become overactive to compensate for poor balance.
• Improved mobility – improved balance will increase mobility and improve energy efficiency.
What do Balance Exercises Include?
Balance exercise programmes are focused on challenging a person’s balance to develop the vestibular and musculoskeletal system.
Balance exercise programmes will include:
1) Exercises on different terrain
2) Exercises on different bases of support e.g. one foot, on a wobble board
3) Exercises with no visual feedback
4) Exercises that are out of your base of support e.g. reaching activities (functional training)
5) Exercises that are out of your base of support whilst moving (dynamic exercises)
These exercises will be prescribed upon a comprehensive assessment and will be monitored with an outcome measure. This will give the physiotherapist and yourself a measurement which will monitor your progress.
7) Head injuries