Q & A: “I don’t feel safe on my feet. My balance seems to be gone and I feel like I will fall, what’s happening to me?”

Experiencing a fall or a loss of balance can be scary, especially when it’s unexpected. It can make us feel afraid and can restrict us from doing certain activities in our daily life. But a life with restrictions on mobility impact independence, self-confidence and how we feel about ourselves. The good news is that balance is not a fixed and unchangeable feature of our physical self. If you have a sense that you’ve lost some of or all of your ability for balance, this is always something we can take steps to improve. The trouble is that most people don’t. If we want to living life without restrictions, prevent falls in the future and feel safe on your feet, rehabilitating your balance is the best thing you could do. So how do we do it?

To understand how, you’ll need to understand a little more about balance. There are a few different systems in our body that are involved in balance and identifying which of these are implicated in your balance difficulties will help us be successful. Our musculoskeletal structures – our muscles and tendons - are the first, if we have rigid muscles that don’t permit us a certain amount of flexibility nor the possess the strength to move us adequately then addressing this in ways that are meaningful to our balance will have a profound effect. The best news is that addressing this is amongst the easiest ways to deal your balance challenges.

So how do we go about it? Strategies targeting getting stronger in positions where we are on our feet are crucial. If we have weaknesses in one position or environment we will compensate by utilising certain other ways of moving, which will reduce the efficiency of how we move during tasks like walking. Starting in positions you are comfortable with, in a stationary standing position and perhaps with some support holding on; stepping, squatting and marching on the spot can work. By gradually changing the challenge of the position, increasing the size of the movement and by slowing it down we can increase the difficulty of the exercise. The key is to challenge our body and adapt. 

Our vestibular system is another system that can be fairly simple to address – if not a little tricky to explain. This is the mechanism that’s like our internal ‘spirit level’, and the way it feeds into the way we manage movement can be reliably rehabilitated. Especially if you’ve had an episode of vertigo and you haven’t quite gotten the spring in your step back, don’t let rehabilitation be the step you miss. The process is a lot like retuning or calibrating that spirit level into the weary you move. 

All up, the most important thing is to build the features of your physical function that in turn will fuel your confidence to move on your feet without restriction. Without it, your risk of falling and injury increase exponentially. So don’t become a statistic, get moving and take back your independence.