According to MSKTC, “Between 30 and 65% of TBI survivors suffer from lack of core strength and balance.” If you are someone who had excellent coordination and balance before your traumatic brain injury, then balance issues may come as a significant shock. Balance and coordination issues are a popular side effect of a brain injury, along with many other symptoms. Accompanying these balance issues might be vertigo, light-headedness, and dizziness.
The severity of these balance issues will depend greatly on you specifically – how bad your injury was, where exactly the injury occurred in the brain, and perhaps even some medications you are on are affecting your balance.
It is important not to let this get you upset, though, because there are ways to cope with these balance issues and help get you feeling like your old self again.
Why Balance Is Necessary
Firstly, feeling imbalanced or unsteady is not something that should be ignored. We require balance as humans to keep ourselves centered, and most importantly, safe.
When balance is poor, there is the risk of falls and, thus, potential further injury. Your lifestyle might also be affected by balance in other ways.
For example, you might not be able to drive or exercise in your condition. It could limit other recovery processes in that regard.
Before choosing a treatment option to work with, you should always get a professional opinion from a trusted therapist or doctor.
One might suit you better than another, and they could also help you determine the underlying cause, such as medications that are possibly making you feel dizzy.
There are various ways to help improve your balance, though.
A strong core is necessary for walking, sitting up, stabilizing the body, and so many more dynamics of functional daily living, including balancing. The Versa Disc forces you to engage various muscle groups, such as the obliques, core, hips, that promote muscle control and improved balance. There are many balance exercises with the versa disc, you just have to get creative.
With somebody helping you balance, you can practice sit to stands, weight shifting, bending over, walking, with assistance, there is a lot you can try. examples are provided below.
You can get an assist bar, one that you would mount in the bathroom, for example, mount it to a wall, and practice sit to stands, squats, hold on with one hand, and, you can let go and grab the bar again when you need to. If you do not have access to an assist bar, a kitchen counter can be substituted.
Splashing waves in the water challenges your balance, stepping in the water makes strengthens your planer flexion, and the water is a safe place to practice walking. With that said, you cap practice balancing, or walking, with a water walker, or traditional walker in the water as well. Furthermore, water therapy is wonderful for practicing and learning balance.
Tall Kneeling/Knee Squats/Sit on Heels
Standing on your knees is a great way to learn how to balance because it cuts the your body in half. Additionally, standing on your knees stretches, and is an isolated workout, for your hips, quads, and core. Once you get the strength and balance on your knees you can increase the balance challenge by holding onto a yoga ball and hold yourself still.
A yoga ball works your balance very well by getting on your hands and knees, put one hand on the ball, and try to walk your other hand on the ball and try to stand tall while balancing and holding the ball.
CanDo Balance Board
The balance board allows you to customize the the form of balance that you need to work on and the target the stabilize muscles that you need to work on for improved balance. Additionally, you can sit in a chair and work on mobility and minor balance muscles. For example, if you are in a wheelchair, or not ready to practice standing balance on this, starting from a sitting position might be a good idea. Balance exercise ideas are in the videos below.
Airex Instability System
The Airex instability system is a series of foam pads of different densities so you can select the unstable surface that suits your balance needs. Below are sample exercises that you can do with the Airex Instability System.
When you perform specific exercises to increase your strength and flexibility in particular areas where balance can be trained, you can help to regain your balance. Some exercises for this may include stretching your ankle and hip muscles or incorporating strength exercises for your legs such as squats and standing leg lifts to increase their strength. As a result, you might begin to feel more steady on your feet with the additional strength and flexibility.
Change The Conditions
You need to challenge your body’s limits if you are going to overcome an obstacle. In this case, your obstacle is an imbalance. It is best to have someone with you when you do this. A good example is closing your eyes when standing. This trains your mind not to have to rely on vision for balance. When you challenge your body and mind in different conditions, you improve on your weaknesses. You could also try walking with your eyes closed (with a supporter nearby) or standing on a pillow to change things up a bit.
Practice Different Movements
Try some various movements that encourage your balance to kick in instinctively. Try going from a sitting to standing position, bending down to retrieve something from the floor, or even reaching for something that is higher above you.
All of these unique movements will help your body and mind trust each other the more you practice them and become familiar with them again.
Test Your Limits
Ready to try the most fearful one of all? Test your limits by moving your body forward as far as possible without moving/lifting your feet. This is another technique where you should have someone with you or a support barrier to catch you.
The idea behind this is to develop balance strategies and, as a result, prevent losing your balance. As you test your limits, you can know how to prevent future falls or imbalances.
What works and doesn’t work for you will depend on your situation alone. Always remember to be cautious with your body and consult with a doctor or physical therapist before pursuing anything.