Winter is here! Most of us have stocked up on firewood, cocoa, marshmallows, and blankets as we lay in wait for all the cold weather. We’ve even turned up the heating and removed grandma’s special knitted socks from storage. And yet, winter doesn’t just mean hot drinks and snuggles, does it? It also means fun! Many of us have also reached for our ice skates, skis, or snowboards as the great freeze approaches. Hooray! And because of this, we thought this would be a perfect time to talk about a really important topic: balance. Yes, that’s right, you can’t ice-skate, ski, or even toboggan without balance, but more than that, walking correctly, stabilizing your body, or keeping your skeletal and muscular health in check without having the correct balance can be… uh hum… a bit of a tightrope act. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this post, we talk about all things balance, from why you need it, to what happens when you don’t have it, all the way through to how you can improve it. So, let’s get some stability on the subject, shall we?
You might be thinking, “Well, hey, my balance is pretty good – I don’t fall off of my bicycle and I can still stand on one leg if I concentrate hard enough”. And that’s all pretty great, except that’s not really the type of balance that matters. Of course, we encourage cycling and circus act, but what we’re really worried about is the overall balance of weight distribution as you go about your daily activities. Most falls and their ensuing back, hip, neck, and ankle problems are a result of a misstep or an inability to balance weight and muscle function correctly. Balance is more than just a fleeting moment of stability on a bicycle: it’s the continued stability of your body in its entirety so as to preserve health and wellbeing.
Let’s make that a little clearer: balance is part of absolutely everything we do whether we are conscious of it or not. The way we walk, listen, and move are all part-and-parcel of the way we are able to balance weight. Mobility depends on our ability to balance muscles correctly; spine health is dependent on an even weight distribution throughout the body during movement and periods of rest; joint health is keenly affected by how well we are able to balance during activity. If we do not have good balance, then we are likely to injure ourselves in the long run – having great balance is a bit like enjoying superior tires on your car: if one or two are low, your wheel alignment changes and your car’s overall functionality suffers.
Here are just a few benefits of excellent balance:
- Increased muscle strength.
- Increased co-ordination and reaction time.
- Strong, effective posture.
- Increased skeletal strength.
- Increased joint mobility.
- Increased flexibility.
Ultimately, good balance is directly linked to health and quality of life. That’s great news, right? Absolutely! If that is, you maintain stability. What happens, then, if you don’t keep an eye on your balance? As you age, your ability to balance decreases and, thus, your health follows suit in various ways. As balance ability declines, so too does the health of your muscles, bones, and general wellbeing. Falls, hip problems, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and even headaches are sure to follow. One of the leading causes of serious injury and/or death are falls… unfortunately, most of them are as a result of impaired balance. Luckily, flawed balance doesn’t rear its ugly head overnight: there are warning signs you can look out for. Here they are:
Feeling as though the world is spinning – much like you did on the playground as a kid – is a sure sign that something may not be right with your balance. For some of you reading this, this feeling may be more severe than for others: many people become used to the spinning sensation and are unaware that they are off-balance, thereby overcompensating on one side of the body and, as a result, increasing the problem and ensuring injury.
- Muscle Pains on One Side of the Body
Because a destabilized body is in a state of unbalance, muscles and joints try to rectify the imbalance by overcompensating on one side. When this happens, muscles strain to one side thereby both increasing the unbalanced posture and, ultimately, increasing the chance of injury. Don’t ignore a nagging pain on one side of the body, as it may very well be causing an imbalance in weight distribution.
- Blurred Vision
Oftentimes imbalanced bodies give way to various other issues, from disorientation through to blurred vision. Prolonged periods of muscle overcompensation can cause fatigue and mental distress and can, in severe cases, lead to blurred vision.
If the above seems all too close to home, don’t fear – we’re here to help. Take a look at some tips for how to get back on – and stay on – your feet in order to be a more stable, healthier you:
- Yoga and Pilates
Doing activities focused on core strength, muscle flexibility, and overall mobility is essential in maintaining a good balance. Yoga and Pilates offer incredible benefits, here.
- Daily Stretching
Always stretch, as this gives your muscles flexibility and mobility and, essentially, helps correct overcompensation if done correctly.
- Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is the single most effective way of correcting balance issues: from improving posture to increasing strength and mobility, physical therapy does it all. A professional, hands-on physical therapist will not only diagnose and treat the root cause of your balance problem but will provide you with the tools to maintain great balance and posture outside of the clinic. In effect, physical therapy offers you the opportunity to ensure excellent balance and to continually live a pain-free, injury-free life. Avoid life-threatening falls by calling one of our dedicated physical therapists, right now. Balancing is, well, a balancing act. With the help of physical therapy, you’ll be well on your way to being a stable, balanced, healthier person.
A strong, balanced, body is essential this winter: don’t let poor balance stop you from heading out there. Give us a call today and find out how we can help you get back to being strong and stable on your feet. One of our dedicated, professional physical therapists can’t wait to chat. Pull on your ice skates, jump on your skis, and let’s get ready for an icy, balanced, injury-free winter!