Balance a bit off?
Updated: Apr 16
Dana Brackley-Jones, Physiotherapist
Most of us are aware that if our ankles get stiff or we have tight calf muscles, we may easily trip over our feet, or if we have painful tight hips, we may not elevate our leg high enough when walking or over obstacles, which can also cause us to fall. Did you realise, though, that the body also employs three primary systems to balance itself: the eyes, the spine, and the vestibular system or inner ear.
The eyes not only provide information about where we are in space (you may have heard the expression "eyes on the horizon"), scanning our environment so that we can see where we are going and the obstacles we must overcome, but they are also linked to the brain by a major cranial nerve that sends balance information directly into the brain.
The spinal cord functions as the body's nerve motor highway, delivering information up and down from our body, muscles, and joints to the brain.
The vestibular system in the inner ears comprises those microscopic hairs and crystals in the ear that can impact our balance. When we turn or angle our head and body, vibration from our movement stimulates the hairs and crystals in our ear canals, both of which provide balancing information to the brain.
So, what does this imply for Physiotherapy or Clinical Pilates?
We may combine particular eye exercises with Pilates activities to improve the signals to the brain regarding balance.
We can mobilise the joints and relax the muscles and fascia of the spine, particularly in the neck and thoracic spine, to facilitate optimum movement and allow for proper balance. (According to research, if there is restriction in movement in the thoracic spine (mid back), particularly in rotation, there is a decreased balancing capacity in walking and an increased chance of falling.)
The neck plays an important part in the movement of nerve signals, blood flow, and spinal fluid up and down the spinal highway. It is critical to have an ideal range of motion in your neck.
We offer inner ear exercises that may be used alone or in conjunction with your Pilates routines to promote inner ear balance.
For a complete examination of your balance or related systems, please contact the clinic. There are lots of wonderful ways to improve balance!