Falling is a common injury. Whether you’re a wobbly toddler or a middle-aged athlete, just about everyone has experienced the pain of a fall. But, as you age, falling is a more serious matter, as it can lead to a neck sprain, back strain, or spinal fracture that can take a toll on your mobility and independence. Among the best ways to prevent falls is having good balance.
Balance, just like the other structures in your spine and body that deteriorate over time, need conditioning and practice to stay healthy. The five tips below will show you how to strengthen your balance to keep the swerves, sways, and slips at bay.
Balance Booster #1: Balance Begins in Your Core.
A strong core is the foundation of strong balance. Many people mistake the core as simply being their abdomen, but it also includes the muscles in your spine, sides of your body, pelvis, and buttocks. These major muscles allow you to move, so keeping them strong has major benefits for your entire body.
Among the tried-and-true core exercises is the front plank, which engages every muscle in your core. You can perform this classic core move on the floor on your hands, or modify the move by leaning at an angle against a countertop for support.
Pilates is another excellent type of exercise to strengthen your core and balance.
Balance Booster #2: Stay Steady with Yoga and Tai Chi.
Yoga and tai chi are ideal exercises for balance because their objective is slow, focused movements that bring attention to specific areas of your body. This controlled approach to movement engages your balance system (which includes your ear, eyes, and spinal cord) by requiring you to carefully shift weight and breathe with intention. These exercises teach you how to be comfortable holding different positions, so you’ll be better able to keep good balance when obstacles come your way in your daily life.
An added bonus: Both exercises are excellent for your spine.
Balance Booster #3: Use a Cane or Walker for Support.
Canes and walkers offer additional balance support to keep you moving. These devices help maintain your independence and provide extra fall prevention to keep your spine safe.
There are many types of assistive devices, so you should work with your primary care provider or a physical therapist to help you choose the best type of cane or walker for you.
Balance Booster #4: Ask a Physical Therapist for Help.
A physical therapist can work with you on exercises that engage your whole balance system. Squats, chair stands, hip extensions, stair climbing, heel-to-toe walks, and single-leg stances are just some of the moves that your physical therapist can teach you to improve and maintain healthy balance.
Good balance takes regular practice, so you can perform those exercises safely at home on a regular basis at the completion of your physical therapy program.
Balance Booster #5: Talk to Your Doctor about Your Medications.
Certain types of medications come with side effects, such as dizziness and drowsiness, that reduce your balance and increase your fall risk. Even over-the-counter drugs to manage neck and back pain can affect your balance. The medicines below are worth a dose of caution:
- Opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and other pain-reducing agents
- Muscle relaxants
- Tricyclic antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs
- Anticholinergic and antispasmodic drugs
- Prescription heart medications
You may find that these drugs have no adverse effects on you, but talk to your doctor if you have concerns they may be impacting your balance and putting you at risk for falls.
A Strong Spine Starts with Good Balance
Balance is an easily overlooked component of good preventive health, but infusing balance-boosting techniques into your daily life may reduce your fall risk. Use these tips to protect yourself from crippling spinal fractures and preserve your mobility for years to come.