Balance is important to protect yourself from injury from falls or just twisting your ankle or knee. We have 3 senses in our body that help us with balance: the inner ear, our sight, and a less-commonly known sense that’s called proprioception (our ability to perceive where our body is in space – it’s how we can close our eyes and touch our nose). Of these 3 senses, 2 of them need to be functioning properly in order for us to have balance. With that being said, how can we improve our balance?
Obviously we want to take good care of our eyes. Make sure you get your eyes checked regularly and have appropriate corrective lenses, especially if you have diseases such as macular degeneration or glaucoma that run in your family. Also, if you have conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure that can affect your eyes, make sure you keep them under control.
2. Inner Ear
Your balance is controlled by the semicircular canals in your inner ear. The semicircular canals are three half-circle tubes that are connected to each other. The canals contain fluid and little hairs that act as motion sensors. As your head turns, the fluid moves into different areas of the canals, and this movement is detected by the little hairs which send signals to the brain. The functioning of the inner ear can be impacted by problems with the upper neck. According to two studies, one published in the journal, Laryngorhinootologie, and another published by the Orthopaedics Department of the People’s Hospital of Hechi City, China, found that dysfunction of the upper neck vertebrae could affect the neurological and arterial supply of the semicircular canals causing dizziness. Therefore, chiropractic adjustments which treat the upper neck can help the semicircular canals function better.
Proprioception is a neurological sense that you perceive about the location of different parts of your body. Signals from sensors located in muscles and ligaments throughout your body travel up nerves into the spinal cord and up to the brain. If those nerves carrying that signal are not functioning properly, your sense of proprioception can be affected. Chiropractic care can help with this. Certain exercises can also help train the sensors in your muscles and ligaments and get them functioning better.
In addition to chiropractic care, there are certain exercises that can help improve your balance. The first set of exercises include oculomotor and head/eye exercises. These exercises involve standing, sitting and lying on your back while tracking a moving target with your eyes and head movements. You can progress by increasing the speed/amount of neck rotation or adding instability by sitting on an exercise ball. The next set of exercises are balancing exercises. This includes standing with your feet close together, with your feet in front of each other and on a single leg. Progression of these exercises include putting a piece of foam under each foot to add to postural instability and standing with your eyes closed. These balancing exercises typically last 30 seconds. Stretching exercises can also help to reduce neck/shoulder stiffness as well as increase neck range of motion.
If you have any questions or need further information, please feel free to contact our office.