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Our “Sixth Sense”

Balance is often referred to as our “sixth sense.”  This is because it relies on other senses to prevent us from falling. We need our vision and muscles to work with our balance organ in order to have good balance.  Our brain is the hierarchy of everything, but it has direct connections to other areas of our bodies with nerves.  One of these nerves connects to our inner ear, otherwise known as the vestibular system.  We have two of these and if they are working at full strength we are good, generally speaking.  As we get older, or if one of our other senses is impaired, then our inner ear needs to work harder to maintain balance and prevent us from falling.  

 

Did you ever wonder why when you are in the dark it’s harder to maintain balance??  That’s because we do not have good vision at night time.  We are utilizing our inner ear and our muscles to make sure we don’t fall on the way to our destination. Here are some things you can do to help prevent a fall at home:

  • Nightlights in the hallway and the bathroom
  • Removal of small rugs in the hallway and bathroom to prevent slipping
  • Anti-slip mats going up the stairs
  • If you use a cane or walker, make sure you are using it to go to the bathroom.  Have one right next to the bed!
  • Make sure anything you need is within reach in order to avoid stools and/or ladders.

Another time when our balance is not the best is when we have an injury.  Have you ever sprained an ankle, or injured your knee playing sports?  After an injury, our muscles tend to shut down and are no longer working with full strength.  Without full strength we then rely on our vision and our inner ear to maintain balance.  That’s why it is so important to address injuries with the proper rehab so that full strength is regained and in return your balance is restored.  What can rehab do to help?

  • Exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles around an injury
  • Education about what you should or shouldn’t be doing at home on your own
  • Guidance about when it is safe to return to sport
  • When able to return to sport, guidance on proper form and prevention of re-injury.

As you can see, our balance system is very important and requires multiple different systems to be working so that we have good balance.  It is definitely something that can be improved so that you can return to the activities you love.

By Devin Wurman, DPT

Give our office a call at, 703-450-4300 to schedule your evaluation and improve your balance TODAY!

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