Balance Part 2: Where to start and how to improve
Balance and core stability are key for individuals living with myeloma to prevent falls or injuries. This is the second article from guest contributor, Myeloma Coach, and physical therapist Beth Travis, PT, MS, Cert MDT. Continue reading to learn more from Beth about where to find stability in your body, and ways to improve your balance.
Where to find stability
Have you ever felt dizzy, or unsteady doing daily activities? Our stability comes from the vestibular system. The vestibular system is located in the inner ear and is the organ of balance. It is made up of the semicircular canals, the otolith organs and the cochlear nerve. This is discussed and displayed in detail by the National Center for Biotechnology Information at this link. It works with, and uses feedback from the visual system and the nervous system to create an awareness of position and posture. Any defect in the system’s interactions can cause compromised balance and increase the risk of falls and potential injury as well. The great news about balance is that like so many things in the human body, it can be improved upon with exercise-specific activities to prevent falls and fall-related injuries.
Here is where to start
If your balance is weak or compromised, the best place to start is at your physician’s office for an evaluation and often, a referral to physical therapy. If you are safe to start on your own, an easy place to start is with leg strengthening that requires just a little balance, as discussed in an earlier post. My favorites are the squats, using a chair positioned behind you for safety. Another is heel and toe raises done while holding onto a sturdy countertop at the kitchen sink. Always remember to work on balance in a safe setting, with something sturdy to hold onto like a bar or a counter, and or a stronger stable, hopefully, trained individual for guarding you against falls. As you progress, you can move on to more complex balance activities like standing on one leg or heel-toe walking. I often use a piece of colored tape on the floor as a pretend balance beam to “walk the tightrope” by the kitchen counter for added stability.
Otago exercise program
My recommended total balance program, as previously mentioned, is the Otago program. This is also endorsed by the CDC. You can get a free detailed copy online here. The exercise section starts on page 41. It gives exercises from head to toe that will help get you solidly back on your feet. These exercises may seem simple in theory but can help improve balance in a big way. Everyone can benefit from balance exercises worked into their daily routines.
Structured Classes for Balance
If structured classes are something that appeals to you, tai chi is a martial art that uses slow-flowing movements, multidirectional weight shifting, breathing, and coordinated movement. See more about Tai Chi here. Alternatively, yoga is a Hindu approach to breathing, meditation, posture, and movement. For example, a tree pose in yoga is a fun option to work on balance, here is a picture of it from Openfit. Both of these types of exercise classes can help for balance, and are offered at many local studios or community centers. Get started today to have a better balance tomorrow.
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