Poor balance has to be one of the most common complaints we hear each day in our physiotherapy sessions and in our classes. Are you one of the many people who feels like your balance is not improving, no matter how hard you hard you to try to practise to make it better?
Potential underlying reasons…
Firstly, there can be many reasons why your balance can be poor, for exmple – inner ear issues, nerve damage in your feet/legs (peripheral neuropathy). You may have vision problems, side effects of some medications & certain neurological issues such as Parkinson’s disease.
If there is no medical explanation for your poor balance, it may well be time to pay attention to your feet!
Your feet are what form your foundation. Your body responds to the feedback that it gets from your feet via your nervous system.
What is important about your feet is that they need to be able to move and adapt to the surface beneath it. Sometimes your feet need to be rigid and sometimes they need to be mobile. Importantly, they need to be able to access both of these forms.
Understanding a bit more…
To enable you to understand a bit better how your feet are meant to move, refer to our blog post Simplifying Foot Movement: Simplifying foot movement
An important starting point when it comes to your balance is to becoming familiar with your tripod of each foot. The tripod is made up of:
- Your heel
- The base (knuckle) of your big toe
- The base (knuckle) of your little toe
If you take a moment, in a relaxed standing posture, to bring your attention to the soles of your feet and scan each of these points in each foot.
You may find that you are aware of all of these points or potentially only one or two. Another useful observation is to sense where most of the pressure is in your feet. For example, many of us carry the majority of our weight in the front of our feet, but this can lead to unnecessary strain in various parts of the body such as the neck, shoulders, lower back and knees.
Are you keeping up?
Ideally, we need to be able to distribute our weight evenly across our tripods. When your weight is held anywhere out with these three points, your balance as well as our efficiency of movement reduces in not only your foot but also the ankle. The knee. The hip. The pelvis. The spine. The neck.
Do you get the picture! This is because your body is one closed system. If one part doesn’t move well, somewhere else in your body will take up the slack. Your body is incredibly adaptable, however there is a threshold – if over time this is crossed, aches & pains will begin to arise.
If, from the above self check, you have found that you are unable to sense all of these points in your feet, it is absolutely worth your time to address this. You will most likely find that your balance will improve too.
You can start by ‘filling the space’ under any of the points of the tripod that don’t feel very clear on the floor. This will begin to you give a sense of what bearing weight across these three points actually feels like. You could use, for example, the edge of a folded up towel. You could then try standing on one leg to see if it feels steadier. This is just a starting point as ideally we want to also be able to train our foot to move fully whilst maintaining these points of contact on the ground.
Keen to learn more?
If you are keen to explore this, we strongly recommend you doing Gary Ward’s online programme ‘Wake Your Feet Up’:
Our Physiotherapists will be able to fully assess you and help with any balance issues you may face.