So let me first start off by saying that I apologize to my faithful followers for my lack of posts in the last three days. However, good things are in motion with the North Carolina Chiropractic Association (http://www.ncchiropractic.com/) as I was at a planning committee this weekend in Greensboro. Moving on!
I went to a group lesson today at Chapel Hill Tennis Club (http://www.chapelhilltennisclub.com/) and discovered my topic for today’s blog. No, it’s not the way to hit a forehand or even where to position your feet for your backhand. Today’s (tennis) lesson focused on something called the “split-step”. The reason, this step creates balance before your opponent strikes the ball and allows you to be ready to react in less time. So how does that apply to everyday life? Answer: balance.
Balance (in reference to our posture) is simply defined as how you stay upright. However, most people think that balance is something that will always be there-something that is natural to have. Fortunately for most of us, we don’t remember the number of times that we fell as a child. The many months it took of trying to figure out how to stand on our two feet before being able to coordinate steps and walk. Parenting states that, “It takes most babies about 1,000 hours of practice from the time they pull themselves upright to the time they can walk alone.” That’s almost 42 days! (http://www.parenting.com/article/learning-to-walk)
Also, on the other end of the spectrum (as we get older), our balance becomes more unsteady which can often be witnessed as people walk with wider gaits, use canes or other supportive devices, or shuffle their feet more while keeping their eyes on the ground. So why does this happen? Well, there are numerous reasons including:
- changes to the inner ear which help us keep our equilibrium
- decreased activity which causes muscle atrophy
- decreased proprioceptive functioning of our nerves due to a number of reasons including improper footwear, diabetes, poor diet, and/or lack of coordination from less activity
- drug to drug interactions or prescription side effects
- blood pressure issues (hyper-) or hypotension
So now comes the all important question, how can I improve my balance on a daily basis? I have given you two examples below that will help you increase your balance with time and practice. If you have any neurological problems or have had trouble with balance in the past, please consult with a medical professional before attempting these exercises.
- Stork: Stand in a doorway or next to a table for stability as you stand on one leg. With the raised leg, the ankle, knee, and hip should all be at 90 degrees. If there is pain, you may drop the hip down to 0 degrees, with the knee and ankle flexed to 90 degrees (see below). You should hold this position for 20-30 seconds or until pain stops you. To increase difficulty, move away from the wall and make sure you tighten your glut and hip flexor muscles to maintain balance.
- Heel to Toe walking. This can be used down a hallway so if you do lose your balance, you will be able to support yourself before falling. To advance this exercise, you can reverse direction and walk backwards. However, be aware of items in your path!
Other references used in this article: http://www.uaex.edu/Other_Areas/publications/PDF/FSFCS31.pdf, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/balance-exercises/SM00049&slide=4, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/articles/2009/04/10/how-to-prevent-falls-by-improving-your-balance#1, http://www.visualphotos.com/image/2×2557296/ballet_dancer_jumping_in_air
Charles Hecht, DC is a chiropractor practicing in Chapel Hill, NC. He enjoys treating people of all ages, and specializes in the treatment of sports injuries. In his spare time, he enjoys scuba diving, tennis, and spending time with his wife and dog.