Balance Awareness Week

I remember my sister going to the doctor a couple of years ago, because she was experiencing vertigo. She did not have any problems with this before; it came up suddenly, and with intensity.  It turned out to be an ear infection.

Her only symptom was the vertigo. Once she started antibiotics and the infection began to clear, her balance went back to normal. She had no more dizzy spells.

September 16th through the 20th is Balance Awareness Week, which brings light to vestibular disorders.  Those who suffer from these disorders can experience vertigo every single day.  Balance doesn’t come innately, it is a conscious effort to maintain even footing, all of the time.

The American Speech-Language- Hearing Association states:

Your balance system helps you stand, walk, run, and move without falling. Your eyes, inner ear, and muscles and joints send signals to your brain. These signals help you stay balanced. This system of signals is your vestibular system.  

There are three loops in your inner ear, called semicircular canals. One canal senses up-and-down movement. Another canal senses side-to-side movement. The third canal senses tilting movements. Each canal has hair cells and fluid inside. When you move, the fluid and hair cells move. The hair cells send messages to your brain through the acoustic nerve. Your brain uses this information to help you know where you are in space.  

Parts of your inner ear also tell your brain about where your head is, when you are not moving. They tell your brain when you move straight, like in a car, or when you go up and down, like in an elevator.   

You use this information, along with what you see and feel, to keep your balance.

Balance training is not only a must for people with inner ear disorders, but for so many of us. Our seated-at-desks culture, as well as things like aging, pregnancy, and old injuries can all affect one’s balance. The mind/body connection loses focus. And when balance is off, the risk of falling goes up.

There are protocols with exercise, that help to keep the signal systems that are in charge of balance, awake and active.  Standing on one leg, while performing a bicep curl; or standing on one foot, with your eyes closed, asks your brain to do more work, in order to stabilize your body in space.  Incorporating single-leg activities can keep your ankle from rolling when you step into a pothole, because you are training your body to right itself. Single-leg exercise helps you to keep level while performing other tasks, like standing on a ladder or standing on one foot while putting on a pair of jeans.

If you are recovered or recovering from any medical condition, and cleared by a doctor for moderate exercise, you can add single-leg standing into your routine. While washing dishes; cooking; standing in line at the grocery store; waiting for the subway; or brushing your teeth: bend your knees, pick one foot up, off the floor, (just a wee bit) and aim to balance on the other. If you feel you are losing your balance, tap the toe of the raised foot down, to regain your balance. Start with 5 to 10 seconds. Switch feet and repeat. You will want to maintain good posture! Draw the abs in, squeeze your standing glute, and push the heel and toe pads of the standing leg, down into the floor.  Over time, you can build up to 15 seconds, then 20 and finally 30 seconds.

Let us, at Pongo Power know how it goes!

To learn more about Balance Awareness Week, and vestibular disorders, click here.

Come in for a free fitness assessment!

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