Life is a continual balancing act. Whenever your equilibrium is disturbed, say between “have–to’s” and “want-to’s”, you feel the discomfort of being off-kilter right away.
Not so with your physical balance.
Nearly every patient whose balance I test and find lacking is thoroughly surprised. Young and old alike, the ability to balance on your own two feet—one at a time—can decline markedly without you ever noticing. What you do notice are things like: recurrent ankle sprains, knee or hip pain, and/or low back discomfort to name a few.
Single leg balance is so very critical to orthopedic health because 70% of the time you spend walking with your two feet; you spend balanced on only one of your legs. If you struggle with the control it takes to balance on that one foot, your body will come up with a number of compensations to help keep you moving forward. The problem is that compensations collect their “pay” in the form of pain, degeneration, and/or disability.
Past injuries and aging muscles can chisel away at your ability to adapt to varied walking surfaces and to keep your body’s balance during your daily activities.
As a rule of thumb, you should be able to balance on one leg (flamingo style), for a total of 10 seconds, without significant disturbance of your stance position or wild arm swinging.
If you discover you cannot achieve this goal, try these balance-improving maneuvers:
- Stand on both feet (4 inch separation at the heels) and slowly turn your body from right to left as if you were looking behind yourself. As you turn to the right, your weight should move to the inside of your left foot and the outside of your right one—while still keeping the big toe of your right foot in contact with the floor. The reverse weight bearing shift should occur when you turn your trunk to the left. Repeat 10x, rotation right, then left.
- Stand with both feet as above. In a controlled manner, roll your weight to the outside of both feet, creating a high arch in your feet, all while keeping your big toes in contact with the floor. Slowly lower your arches back down to the floor. Repeat 10x.
- Perform a single leg stance (no contact between your legs), counting the seconds you can maintain balance. Repeat 3x each leg.
Continue to make these exercises a part of your daily routine until your 10-second “balancing act” is restored.