The Most Important System for Balance

Are you someone who has concerns about their balance and the fear of falling or tripping? Do you find yourself bumping into objects or catching your toe on the sidewalk? Do you maintain an active lifestyle yet the issue of losing your balance remains? Are you targeting the proper area where balance reigns supreme?

There are three systems we use to maintain our balance and to know where we are in space. We use our visual, vestibular and proprioceptive systems to orient us in our world. However, there is one that is more important than the other two and is often the most ignored. It is the vestibular system: apparatus in the inner ear consisting of the utricle, saccule, and the semi-circular canal which feed the brain information about spatial orientation, equilibrium, and motion.

People can survive without their vision and find ways to adapt to the world around them. There are also times when our proprioception (nerve endings throughout the body that give information about movement, temperature, pressure, and pain) is diminished such as when we receive an injury. However, even with diminished proprioception we can limp around or finds other ways to move through our day with assistive devices. Without stimuli from the vestibular system you literally cannot move. Just ask anyone who has suffered from vertigo. Their vestibular system stops relaying proper signals to the brain and they can no longer tell up from down, and must instantly get into a chair or hit the floor. You cannot drive, eat, get up and do anything. You are incapacitated!

We spend so much time improving our proprioception by going to the gym and exercising, stretching, taking yoga classes, etc. We also go to the ophthalmologist to get our vision checked and receive prescriptions for corrective eyewear. However, how many people go and get their vestibular system checked? How many people even know what that might look like?

There are a series of head motions known as the “Epley Maneuver” which most sufferers of vertigo are familiar with. These head motions allow the gel-like fluid in the inner ear to move around gently to stimulate nerve endings which send stimuli to the brain and help reset their balance. There are too, other exercises which involve tilting your head to the left, right, forward, backward, and rotating left & right which helps stimulate the vestibular system. These movements can be progressed or regressed with body positions and motions to bring about a better sense of balance. Should you find yourself in need of some true balance training and standing on one leg does not seem to do much, perhaps you should give our team a call and set up an appointment to assess your vestibular system and get a program that can address the issue?

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