The body’s balance system works through a constant process of position detection, feedback and adjustment using communication between the inner ear, eyes, muscles, joints and the brain.
This mechanism in its entirety or partially can be damaged by injury, illness or age.
When interacting with the environment such as learning a new task or practice an existing task, the brain goes through several changes of growth, and adaptation to reinforce the activity. This is called neuroplasticity. The brain was once thought to be a rigid structure, this has now been disproven. We know the brain is ever evolving and by learning new processes, tasks and adapting to existing ones, the brain will lay down new pathways minimising any age-related decline.
Improving your balance is no different. By undertaking tasks that challenge the various aspects of the balance system we can improve the way the brain perceives us to be in space, therefore enhancing balance.
There are a variety of causes for loss of balance and falls. One of the symptoms of declining musculoskeletal strength is loss of balance. Muscle weakness and unstable joints can contribute to a loss of balance. This leads to an increase in fracture risk which can be a significant health burden to the individual.
Exercise induced neuro plasticity can create new neural pathways – immediately after extreme Osteogenic Loading events when the brain and central nervous system is excited, and the nerves are highly receptive to change.
Because you engage your nervous system and entire musculoskeletal system in a brief, but unique way at OsteoStrong, one of the benefits is an almost instant improvement in balance and agility. In fact, it’s one of the first things that people notice improve!!
Some other ways to challenge or improve your balance (eyes, ears and feet) can be performed outside of OsteoStrong.
Our eyes have muscles that need to be stimulated and this can be achieved by stretching and strengthening them! How about trying to make patterns with your eyes (keeping your head still) or circle your eyes around the socket in lots of different directions. We can get a little lazy or complacent with our field of vision so explore your peripheral vision and short and long range focus.
For your feet, get those shoes off!!! Aim to walk around barefoot to improve the sensations in the soles of your feet. Challenge the many layers of muscle and learn to spread and move your toes with the same finite movement you expect from your hands!
Use foam pads, balance beams, dura discs, wobble boards…whatever you can to vary to surfaces you stand on and challenge your balance! Eyes closed will put more load of your vestibular system. Try to feel your way and use your reflexive ‘righting reactions’ to help you constantly shift and redefine your posture.
As always start slow and if need be use props to assist you, like holding onto a chair or having one nearby just in case. Balance can be and will improve if you work at it, like any task undertaken.