Balance is a complex activity which requires input from multiple different body systems
The musculoskeletal system
Muscle weakness is a significant factor in the loss of balance for many people. As we age, muscle strength, power, and speed of contraction all begin to decline. Muscle fibers require longer periods of stretch to maintain their length and flexibility. Part of your balance training program will included targeted strengthening and stretching to improve stability and mobility throughout your body. Large muscle groups in the legs and trunk help move us through space and hold our weight against gravity. However, there are many smaller muscles in the body that are important for postural stability. These smaller muscles make the minor adjustments in skeletal alignment needed to keep us balanced, and are the first to weaken or fatigue without proper use. As human movement specialists, our physical therapists will be able to identify these subtle muscle problems and work to improve their performance.
Our practice begins with you
At West Portland Physical Therapy Clinic, we will carefully evaluate all factors that may be contributing to your specific balance issues in order to create a unique treatment plan. We want you to stay safe and active, and enjoy all life has to offer. We care about the health of your whole body and will work closely with other healthcare providers to make sure that changes to medication, nutrition, prescription lenses, or other factors that may affect your balance are identified and cared for by the proper medical professional.
Our physical therapists can identify subtle muscle problems and work to improve their performance
Nerve endings within each joint sense muscle effort and joint position. This positional awareness is called proprioception. While proprioception is distinct from our tactile sense, a loss of sensation in the feet, or reduced input from a joint following surgery or joint replacement may affect how well your body is able to use this information. Mild joint compression can increase the sensitivity and effectiveness of the proprioceptive system, which allows our therapists to carefully design a program to help you best integrate this information into balance training.
The vestibular system is the sensory system that contributes most to how stable we feel, and how well we react to changes in body position. The organs of the inner ear detect forward or backward acceleration as well as rotational movement, and have direct connections to vision and the muscles that keep us upright. It is this system that helps our body understand how we are interacting with our environment. As we age, these organs may slow down or become more vulnerable to damage. At any age they can be affected by medication, trauma, or infection. A crucial part of balance training includes evaluating and improving this information pathway and the associated neuromuscular connections.
The brain and muscles respond to information from the visual system, the inner ear, and the joints to determine where your body is in space, how you are moving in relation to the world around you, and how to maintain an upright posture.