Hey, it’s Dr. Jake Berman!
Let’s talk about balance. It’s one of the most common things people want us to help them with when they come in to the clinic!
Balance is something we take for granted until it’s taken away. Remember when you used to do cartwheels or spin around as fast as you could when you were a kid? Back when getting dizzy and falling over was something you did for FUN?
Ah, the good old days!
There are thee main systems that are responsible for your balance: the vestibular system (a fancy word for “the inner ear”), your vision, and proprioception. These concepts are actually very easy to understand! Let’s dive in and figure out what we need to focus on to improve our balance:
Your inner ear consists of a number of semi-circular canals. As fluid circulates through the canals, the brain is able to detect where your head is located and help you feel grounded and centered.
As you age, however, and you stop a lot of the activities you used to do (like cartwheels and spinning!), the fluid starts having trouble circulating. And when the fluid doesn’t circulate, the brain doesn’t know where you are, which results in vertigo, dizziness, and a balance deficit!
Test this out: Stand on one leg (or, if you’re not able to stand on one leg, put one foot in front of the other on the ground). Notice how steady you are.
Now close your eyes. Suddenly it's harder to balance, isn't it?
When you can't see where you are, your brain has a hard time helping you balance. That's why you might have balance issues at night—the darkness impairs your vision!
Don’t be intimidated by the big word! Propioception is the brain’s connection to muscles. For example, the reason you know where your hand is right this second is because propioception lets you. When you did the balance test, you used muscles to hold yourself up, and proprioception told you which muscles to activate (mostly stabilizing muscles) in order to stay in place.
That's all for this time! Stay tuned for next week's blog!