How Does Balance Work Anyway?

Ever wondered how your body keeps its balance? Well, wonder no more! This is the question we'll address in this blog post.
 
In our work, we encounter balance issues that start at any age. It's no secret that the human body is complicated. Balance is no different. Your brain relies on input from several of your body's systems to map out your position in the world. This helps you stay upright to move about your world.  
 
Your body uses three main systems for this purpose. These systems communicate information with one another through nerves. This gives your brain information about your positioning at all times.
 
Healthy balance happens on a subconscious level. We shouldn't be aware all this work is going on behind the scenes. The first hint of awareness is a sign of a problem. Balance problems arise when any one of these systems, a combination of them, or the communication between these systems start to malfunction
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What is a Floor Transfer?

 

Why do we care so much about your ability to get on and off the floor?
 
Because the ability to get on and off the floor without the use of your hands is a strong physical predictor of early disability and death.
 
This is why one of the first skills we cover with new clients is getting on and off the floor. Not only is this a life-saving skill but it's also one of our favorite exercises for healthy aging!
 
There are an infinite number of ways you can get on and off the floor, as well as unlimited options for sitting positions once you are on the floor. The confidence to know you can safely and easily get off the floor decreases your future risk of falls!
 
If you're currently able to get yourself on and off the floor, continue to practice this skill daily. If you are unsure, see a physical or occupational therapist for a floor transfer test. 
 
A floor transfer test is nothing fancy. As shown in the pictures above, the...
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Alignment 101: Foot Alignment Points

Happy, healthy feet are the key to healthy movement. As we've said before, your feet are the foundation of your body. You wouldn’t want a foundation of a house that's not aligned, so you don't want the same from the foundation of your body.

Again, when it comes to alignment we want to stress that the ultimate goal is not perfectionThe goal is to recognize that how you move plays a huge role in how your body functions. If you're striving to change your movement, explore your movement habits using alignment points.
 
Better foot alignment will optimize your walking, stabilize your core, and improve your balance. Maintaining correct foot alignment requires mobility of the joints and strength of the muscles of your feet. The more mobile your foot and ankle, the better they absorb reaction force of walking. This reduces the reaction force that goes through your hips and knees, leaving your joints happy and healthy. In the end, walking with rigid feet demands...
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Quick Test: Are Your Hips Actually Weight-Bearing?

In order for your hips to be building bone density through the day, they need to be supporting the weight of your pelvis and torso in a certain alignment. 


A common pattern we see with resting standing positions is standing with the pelvis pushed slightly forward (as in the first picture). It's subtle but has major implications for bone health of the hips (not to mention the long term impact of this position on foot health, core strength, and balance).

Shifting the pelvis back so your body weight is carried over the heels (second picture) and maintaining this position throughout the day allows for optimal bone health. However, getting to this position if this is not your usual requires taking a closer look at the muscle groups that attach to the pelvis. 

A quick and simple test to help you determine where you carry your center of mass: make a plumb line from string with something weighted at the bottom. Position yourself facing sideways toward a mirror and find the boniest...

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All Walking is Not Created Equal

When it comes to walking, most of us have a strong preference between walking outdoors, indoors, or on a treadmill. We tend to think these activities are interchangeable from a health perspective, but are they? The surfaces that we walk on change the experience of our body and the muscles that we use.

Walking overground should be powered by the backs of our legs with our torso vertical. In order to propel us forward, our muscles generate a pushing action behind us to push the ground away. On the other hand, a treadmill forces our body to do exactly the opposite, relying on a walking pattern driven by the muscles in the front of the hip and thigh to catch yourself because the “ground” is coming toward you. Therefore, treadmill walking is not the same as walking overground.

So Why Does This Matter?

For most of us, the muscles of the fronts of our hips are already shortened due to time spent sitting every day. Treadmill use encourages further shortening and overuse of...

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Try This Quick Test for Balance

A quick test for balance: how long are you able to stand on one leg without arm support? 

To set up: keep a chair or something you can hold if needed nearby and stand in front of a mirror with your feet hip width apart, shoes and socks off. Place your hands on your hips, shift your weight to one side and pick your opposite foot off the floor. How long can you hold this position?

An adult around age 30 should be able to comfortably hold this position for 30 seconds. In adults over age 65, an inability to hold this for at least 5 seconds indicates a greater risk of falls. Were you surprised by your results? 

We often get asked why we spend so much time practicing single leg standing in therapy. This skill is important because this is the position we spend the most amount of time in while walking! In order to take a step forward, you have to stand on one leg to allow the other leg to swing forward. If you are having difficulty with single leg standing, it is likely your walking...

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Your Worst Health Habit Is Likely... Your Shoes

One of the most detrimental health habits humans tend to have is something most of us probably never give much thought to, at least in terms of health impact.

It's your shoes. 

For every 1 degree of heel your shoe has, 1 degree of spine, hip, and knee joint reaction is required to compensate…. meaning for every 1 inch of heel your shoe has, it causes 20 degrees of change throughout the joints of the legs and spine!

Think even a modest heel is not a detriment to your health? Think again.

Your footwear choices have a major negative impact on your joint, bone, and muscle health. The amount of joint reaction caused by wearing heels can be contributing to knee and hip osteoarthritis, lumbar disc compression, and even pelvic floor dysfunction (new moms... please avoid heels!). Improper footwear choices are also a common culprit of falls in older adults.

So, believe it or not... one of the biggest impact steps you can take toward improving your health is...

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The Problem We Should All Be Talking About

What comes to mind when you think of aging?

Due to the stereotypes perpetuated by rampant ageism in our society, most of us don't associate aging with positive images. 

But, aging doesn't have to be negative. 

Here at ABC, our mission is to change the way people think of aging. When we have clients come in, initially we only hear about the downsides of aging. The difficulty with walking. The loss of strength. Chronic pain. And one of the topics no one walks to talk about, balance issues and falls. 

The first point we want to highlight is that none of the above have to be a normal part of aging! And if you are experiencing balance problems or falls, start talking to someone about them right this minute. With our aging population, this is an issue that has a major impact on the health trajectory of the country in multiple ways.

The Real Cost of Not Talking About Falls

In 2015, the costs directly related to fall injuries in older adults totaled over $31...

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Are You Doomed to Be Inflexible Forever?

Do you wake up feeling stiff every morning?

Does it take an hour or two after waking up for that feeling to go away?

Or does that feeling linger all day?

One of the most common questions we get asked is if this is a natural part of aging. Our clients wonder if this is just inevitable or if there is something that can be done to prevent this. 

We're here to tell you this DOES NOT have to be a natural part of aging, and that yes, there is plenty you can to avoid waking up with that feeling every morning! 

Let's Talk About Flexibility...

Flexibility, also known as range of motion, can be improved and maintained at any age. Our tissues get stiff because we stop using them, not just because of old age. 

We need to take a closer look though, because only working on flexibility is not a great solution either. It's vital to keep a good range of motion of all of our joints as we age, but to function at our best we must also have the strength to control our...

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The One Factor That Holds the Power to Change Your Life in an Instant

"Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right." -Henry Ford

Have you ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Ever had a feeling something would go wrong, and then it did? It probably left you wondering if it was intuition, or if your bad feelings caused you to act differently than you would've bringing about the negative outcome. The answer is likely the later.

You've likely experienced this at one time or another, and are likely experiencing this every day without even being aware!

So how do you know if this is you?

Are you struggling with your health? Not feeling quite as energetic and confident as you hope you will someday?

You might be setting yourself up each and every day for a self-fulling prophecy when it comes to your health just by being in the wrong mindset! 

When you believe something will go wrong, you set yourself up for failure. In healthcare, we see this every day. At a client's first visit we often hear stories of desperation and...

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