Tips on balance as you age

 

Falls are relatively common in older adults who live at home, and increase with advancing age. Falls are associated with an increase in mortality, a reduction in mobility and greater dependence in activities of daily living.

Balance, the ability to control and maintain your body’s position as it moves through space, is such an integral part of daily life that most people rarely give it conscious thought. Your brain, muscles, and bones work together to maintain your body’s balance and to keep you from falling, whether you’re walking, rising from a chair, or climbing stairs. They also let you navigate sloping or uneven surfaces.

There are conditions, which may impair your sense of balance and contribute to falls. The effects of aging are the most common causes of balance problems; injury, certain drugs, alcohol and disease can also trigger problems.

It’s important to find out what you can do to decrease your risk and improve your general health and mobility. Individual programs of muscle strengthening and balance retraining, home assessments, exercise classes are beneficial.

Physiotherapy can help.

Working with a physiotherapist can produce exceptional results in many cases. Even if some of your natural sense of balance has been diminished over time, Physiotherapists are experts at retraining your body to make the most of its capabilities.

A physiotherapist will likely review your medical history and determine your general physical condition, as well as conduct an inventory of tests specifically designed to measure balance and gait.  After the physiotherapist has determined what is impairing your balance, (s)he will design a program of exercises and activities just for you, with an emphasis on strength, flexibility, and proper gait.

All exercises should be planned for maximum safety and security.

If you have balance problems related to the inner ear, physical therapist may also try interventions known as Vestibular rehabilitation. Vestibular rehabilitation includes techniques that help the inner ear respond to a change in position. Conditions that may require vestibular rehabilitation include Vertigo, Dizziness, or Nausea.

Eye exercise for balance

eye-exerciseStep 1.

Focus your eyes on a target 10-20 feet away while you change from sitting to standing and back again with your eyes OPEN. Make sure that you land softly when you sit!

Step 2.

Repeat with your eyes CLOSED.

Step 3.

Feel the position of your body as you move.

Be sure that you keep your weight forward on the front of your feet, knees apart, Chest forward, and spine erect feet, may lack the flexibility and range of motion necessary to avoid falling.

Strength, flexibility, and endurance are crucial to maintaining balance and preventing falls.

Half circle sway

sway-exerciseIf you have experienced falls or problems with balance,  get your physiotherapist’s permission before doing this exercise.

Step1.

Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart.  Hold something for safety.  Breathe deeply and relax.

step2.

Lean forward slowly from the ankles, without bending at the hips. Feel how about 70% of your body weight is now on the balls of your feet.

step 3.

Return to the neutral starting position. Now, lean slowly to the left. Feel how about 70% of your body weight is on the left sides of your feet.

step 4.

 Return to the upright position. This time lean slowly to the right, feeling the shift in your weight.

step 5.

Now put it all together: Practice making graceful half-circle sways from left to center to right and back again. Begin with small half circles, and gradually increase to see how far you can move your body without taking a step.

Even if your basic perception of balance is good you have normal vision and no inner ear problems you can still be at risk for falls if your muscles are weakened or stiff, or if you tire easily.

Older adults, particularly those with osteoporosis have very valid concerns about falling and often restrict their physical activities to prevent such a mishap.  Physiotherapy can help you learn to maintain higher levels of strength, flexibility, and endurance in a way that still feels safe and secure.  Many Researches indicates that the risk of falling in older adults can be reduced dramatically when specific exercises, activities, and interventions are prescribed by physiotherapists.

There are instances, however, in which physiotherapy alone may not be appropriate. If you have an inner ear disorder, for example, you will need to consult a physician.

 

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