Dr. James C. Spaulding

Chiropractor - Edinboro, Pa.

Instrument Adjusting Certified
106 Waterford Street • Edinboro Pa 16412 • Send E-Mail
Phone: (814) 734-3422
How's Your Balance?
My friends and family often stare at me as if I’m unbalanced…but that’s not the particular idea of balance that I’m talking about for the purposes of this discussion. Life is a balancing act, and balance is good in all areas of our lives for sure. Speaking as a chiropractic practitioner, I see good health as related to the whole person, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, including posturally and structurally.

There is another aspect of balance that relates to lightheadedness and vertigo. These are separate problems entirely, and it not these aspects of balance that I am concerned with in this article.

What got me thinking about balance was something that happened to me recently at the gym. When I’m there for an aerobic session, in my case the stationary bike, I wear gym shorts. But it’s winter in northwestern Pennsylvania (cold and snowy) and so I wear a pair of jogging pants over top on the way in. As I take them off I stand on one leg, and then the other, slipping them over my sneakers. I’m pretty strong and steady standing on my right leg, but standing on my left leg I am somewhat unsteady and noticeably weaker. Sometimes I even have to brace myself on the lockers so as not to embarrass myself by falling over.

Now I could easily sit down on an available chair and accomplish the task at hand, but that would be giving in, and I’m stubborn about some things.

I’m telling you this because I advise people every day about the importance of balance, either by utilizing specific standing exercises, exercises on one of those big rubber balls, or sometimes with the use of a toggle-board. I just haven’t taken my own advice yet.

It behooves us to work on better balance, for the following reasons:

  • Loss of balance results in loss of function, and loss of function can usually be measured by the absence of certain physical activities. This often includes work-time loss, and a reduction in the normal activities of daily life.
  • Loss of balance can result in greater susceptibility to lower back and hip problems, and unfortunately, falls. We don’t normally have to think about the mechanism of walking, but it involves an intricate relationship between the muscles and joints of the lower back, the buttocks and hips, and legs. When something is off in one of these areas you may have a tendency to drag a foot, for instance, which could cause a trip and fall. Going up and down stairs could even become more difficult.

How do I know if I have good balance for my age? Here is a simple test you can do to find out.

1. Stand behind a firm surface such as a counter or chair back.

2. Hold your hands just above the surface in case support is needed.

3. Close your eyes and stand on one foot.

4. Count, or even better have someone else count, the number of seconds you can stand balanced on the one foot.

If you were able to balance for 20 seconds or more your balance is that of a 20 year-old; 15 seconds means you have the balance of a 30 year-old; 7 seconds, a 40 year-old; 4 seconds, a 50 year-old; and you have the balance of someone over 60 if you weren’t able to balance like that at all.

Don’t fret, especially if this shows you to be older than your chronological years. By practicing a few simple exercises 3-4 times per week you can actually turn back the years.

Here are 3 to start with in order of difficulty:

Exercise #1
1. Stand fully erect and focus on a spot on the floor 10 feet in front of you.
2. Raise yourself slowly up and then down on your toes while continuing to focus on the spot.
3. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise #2
1. Stand next to a counter or chair. Try not to, but if needed, place your fingertips there for balance.
2. Raise one leg up and then down slowly and in a controlled manner as if you were marching; raise the opposite leg up and down in the same manner.
3. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise #3
1. Stand with your arms to your side, your feet slightly apart, and your shoulders relaxed.
2. Raise one leg up slightly off the floor and balance, if you are able, for 30 seconds. If you are unable to do this with no hands, place your fingertips (or hands if necessary) on a counter or chair back.
3. Repeat 2 more times, and then switch legs.
4. Try to work up to balancing for to 2 minutes with no hands.
5. When you can do this try the exercise with eyes closed (it won’t be so easy.)

After doing these exercises for 2 weeks retest yourself for your “balance’ age. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Dr. Jim Spaulding is a full-time practicing chiropractor of 37 years. He has written numerous articles on the subject of diet and exercise.

© 2014 Dr James C. Spaulding. All Rights Reserved.