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The One Leg Balance Exercise

In summary our balance is controlled by 3 systems, Visual, Vestibular (inner ear) and Somatosensory (The Somatosensory System which involves feedback on position and space). The main postural control and balance is via the visual system where the eyes provide feedback to the brain about our position in relation to the horizon. The vestibular system orientates our head via 2 semi-circular canals, which contain fluid that circulates within the canals, that stimulate hair like fibres when our heads move and relay that information to the brain to tell us the position of our head. The most common problem older people experience is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. In this condition as we age we can develop little particles in the fluid called otoliths, which over stimulate the fibres in the canals causing the vertigo. The somatosensory system includes perception of pain, light touch, pressure temperature, vibration and joint position sense. When you close your eyes and put your arm above your head you can still locate your hand because of these positional sense receptors. There are special receptors in our skin, muscle and joints that detect tendon and muscle tension, mechano-receptors in our joints to detect joint movement as well as others that detect light touch and pressure on the skin. All of these receptors send messages back to the brain and are integrated with the messages from the inner ear and eyes to help us maintain balance. It's a very complex system and if one thing goes wrong the whole system may fail and we fall over. Our brains often compensate for the lack of or incorrect information we receive from the 3 systems but often that is not possible. For example if the receptors in our legs and feet are notworking property we are still OK if our eyes are open because of the powerful influence of vision on balance but if we close our eyes it is much harder to maintain our balance. As we age our vestibular and somatosensory systems become less effective so balance is affected and it becomes difficult to balance on one leg. In diseases that effect the somatosensory system, such as diabetes or spinal stenosis and many others, which cause an impact on nerve transmission or the function of the receptors, our balance is affected. However, by performing balance exercises we can retrain and improve our balance.

So with these systems not working at optimum we are more likely to fall if we trip or lose our balance and then we don't have the ability to correct for the fall. And because we can't brace ourselves, even minor falls result in more severe injuries than would normally be anticipated.

There are multiple sites on U-Tube where you can learn to execute the exercises that will benefit you but the easiest is the ONE LEG STAND for up to thirty seconds on each leg.


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