THE IMPORTANCE OF BALANCE
When you research what is the best type of rehabilitative exercise for a particular injury/pain/difficulty the results will generally show that a varied exercise programme is usually best. Of course, there will be always be a particular aspect of/ type of exercise that is specifically important. Especially in the acute stage. Normally however (mainly in regards to the lower limbs) rehabilitation should encompass exercises that cover range of movement, strengthening, endurance, flexibility and balance.
From my experience with my clients it is usually the balance exercises that have the less amount of adherence. From my own personal experience, I completely understand why. They seem boring and challenging, standing on one leg for 10 seconds and repeating it 5 times is not exactly fun. But it is this challenge that makes balance so important.
Balance is an individual’s ability to maintain their line of gravity within their base of support. It is being able to maintain an equilibrium, which is where the body can in any condition equalise all of the acting forces upon it to bring about a stable balanced system.
The 3 systems that provide input into our ability to maintain a state of equilibrium are: Somatosensory/ Proprioception, Vestibular and Visual. These 3 systems feed information into our central nervous system. Our central nervous system then processes it and creates a corrective, stabilising torque by choosing which muscles to activate.
In physiotherapy we work on static and dynamic balance. Static balance is where the body is able to maintain a fixed posture. This can be from maintaining a sitting position to standing on one leg. Dynamic balance is where postural stability and orientation are sustained, whilst the individual’s centre of mass is kept over the base of support as the body is in motion. We use dynamic balance when we walk upstairs to when we have to jump over obstacles. Within a rehab programme, we usually start with static balance and move onto dynamic balance. Progressively making the exercise more difficult and task appropriate/ functional. Making sure to challenge all 3 systems.
This challenging and improving of our balance is so important as it means we can meet the demands of everyday life. Our body can move more efficiently when we have good balance, as it means it can adapt, support and protect you quickly. This applies to everyday tasks to playing sports.
Anyone who knows me knows I am klutz. As a child I was always covered in scrapes and bruises and I still find that I tend to bump into and drop things. However, since becoming a pilates instructor my inner klutz has reduced and my balance has improved. This is because I am regularly using and challenging my balance. As well as this and my pre-operative exercise programme I was put in good stead for after my operation. However, a change in balance post operatively is still normal. This is because things have gone on inside the knee and things have changed within it. There is also pain. Pain can restrict mobility and normal movement, which in turn causes weakness. These factors also affect balance. But by having a pre-operative exercise programme and actually doing my balance exercises I noticed it has been quick to improve.
So here are some of the balance exercises I have been doing. The exercises get progressively more difficult by mixing up how much support I have, the surface I’m doing it on, performing another task at the same time or by closing my eyes. I am using small bits of equipment in the video but you don’t need to buy this stuff to do the exercises. Bottles of water and cans can be used as a small weights and pillows and folded up towels as your unstable surface.
I do pull some silly faces as I concentrate and you’ll see that I get a bit of a wobble on at some points but this is part of the challenge and remember it is this challenging of your balance that makes the difference. Again I have sped up some of the exercises. Also again I apologise for the silly shorts but they show my left knee well and you’ll also see I am nattering away when doing these exercises. This is to my mum who is kindly videoing me.
IMPORTANT NOTE – always remember to get advice from a Health Professional before starting your exercise programme.