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When was the last time you tried to balance on one leg or walk on a balance beam?….. For most of us, it’s probably been a while since we challenged or even really paid attention to our balance.  We don’t tend to think about how we can do physio care at home until we start having problems with our balance. Is it time that you start doing physio care at home to help test your balance? Here’s my sales pitch for why you should….

20-30% of seniors in Nova Scotia will fall this year and about half of those falls will result in serious injury (head trauma, fractures etc).  Some of those people will be aware of their declining balance and agility but many will not.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t tend to test our balance with physio care at home until we fall. Proprioception is a key factor in maintaining our balance; it is the body’s ability to know where it is in space and how to control its movement accordingly.

As a physiotherapist, I do a lot of work with people to improve their proprioception. It is highly trainable and partners with your strength to keep you upright.   For instance, when your footsteps on a tree root and your ankle starts to roll, small receptors in your ankle signal to your brain what is happening and your brain turns on the appropriate muscles to prevent you from spraining your ankle.  Two key things need to happen in this scenario, the signals from your joint to your brain need to be fast and your muscles need to be fast and strong enough to make the correction.

Intrigued?  Want to test out your proprioception? Well great news, you can do your own physio care at home to test it!

Physio care at home:

Self-test #1 (“The Flamingo”)*

Stand in front of your countertop at home, with your hands on top and feet hip-width apart
Lift one foot off the ground
Lift your hands slightly off the countertop (but stay close enough to grab it if you need to steady yourself)
The goal is to stand on one leg for 20 seconds without needing to use your hands

Self test #2 (Sit to Stand)*

Sit in a kitchen chair at home that is pushed up against a wall (so it can’t slide backward)
Try to stand up and sit down several times without using your hands

*do not try either of these tests if you feel unsafe to do this physio care at home

These two tests are great ways to do physio care at home. Test #1 will give you a good sense of how your proprioceptive “signaling” system is working and test #2 indicates your leg strength.  The relevance of test #2 is more obvious because it is a movement we use daily.  However, the single-leg stand is also integral to how we move; every step we take includes a single-leg stance phase, and each time we go up and down stairs we are balancing on one leg.

While physio care at home is a great starting point, consider consulting a Zoomers Physiotherapist to learn balance and strengthening exercises that are appropriate for you. This is especially important if you had difficulty with either of these tests. In addition, you might also consider taking up a gentle exercise class like Tai Ch; they have been shown to have significant benefits to the balance system.

Remember, the proprioceptive system is testable with physio care at home. Your proprioception is trainable, so take action with physio care at home or in the clinic to improve your confidence in movement and reduce your risk of falling.

Book an assessment with Zoomers

Use our online booking tool to find a time that works for you!