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Posted on 03-19-2018

“Knowing is half the battle…” GI Joe


Some time ago, I told you about the three balance SYSTEMS – the visual system, the vestibular system, and the proprioception system.

This time, let's talk about the three balance STRATEGIES we all use for maintaining our balance.  But first, I need to tell you about something called postural sway. 

You've probably noticed that, even when you are standing still, you're not really standing still.  That's because we are all always moving.  Let's do an experiment:  stand up and try to be as still as you can – no moving!  Did you notice it?  Even when you are trying to stand very still, you still move some.  That's called postural sway. And it is barely noticeable in people with good balance.

But, when we start to have problems with one or more of our balance systems, our reaction time gets longer and so our postural sway becomes more noticeable.  And people, who have moderate to severe problems with their balance systems, can have a hard time even standing up without holding onto something. 

Now to the balance STRATEGIES.  Think about a time when you were in a crowd and someone ran into you...

1.     The Ankle Strategy – The person in the crowd didn't so much run into you but kind of glanced off of you.  Your body moved but it only took some effort at your ankles to maintain your balance.  You can try this on your own – if you stand up and move your body back and forth without moving your feet, you will feel the muscles in your ankles and lower legs working to keep you balanced – that's The Ankle Strategy.

2.     The Hip Strategy – The person in the crowd was moving fast and hit you a bit harder and made your hips move but your feet still didn't move.  You can try this on your own, too.  Move your body a bit more but still don't move your feet and you will notice that your hips start to get into the game – that's The Hip Strategy.

3.     The Step Strategy – The person in the crowd was really moving and hit you square on.  This time you had to take a step with one foot to maintain your balance – that's The Step Strategy.

The problem is that some people have impaired balance SYSTEMS and so cannot use their ankle or hip strategies and so rely on their step strategy, which puts them at higher risk for falls because they'll fall if they don't step correctly or fast enough.

When you come in for your balance evaluation, I will test your balance SYSTEMS and your ability to use your balance STRATEGIES.  Together we'll discover where the problems are and we'll develop a personalized treatment plan to improve your balance and to lower your risk of falls.  Call today and set your appointment!


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