There are several systems that play a role in our balance and fall prevention.
The SOMATOSENSORY SYSTEM is made up of proprioceptors embedded in our body’s muscle fibers which give us information about the surface we are standing on and can sense the need to adjust in order to remain balanced. It also provides information about the position of our body and our limbs and signals the need for movements to maintain balance.
Our VISION provides us with information about our surroundings and is the number one system used for balance when we are standing on unstable surfaces like walking in the grass or on ice. We also depend on our vision when we lack sensation in our feet.
The VESTIBULAR SYSTEM or inner ear provides information about balance when the signals coming from the other two systems are limited, such as when you are walking in the dark.
The MUSCULAR SYSTEM is significant in maintaining balance for obvious reasons…balance requires adequate muscular strength, power and flexibility.
Of course, the ability to recover from a loss of balance also requires adequate COGNITIVE FUNCTION. The brain is responsible for coordinating the movement patterns needed for appropriate reaction times and the processing speed needed to make movement adjustments for a quick balance recovery.
While all these systems play a role in balance and work together to do so, the feet are considered the first responders. They not only provide support for the body, but they initiate movement, especially when maintaining balance while walking. The feet house proprioceptors in the form of 8,000 nerve endings which is more per square inch than any other part of the body. They provide information about various surfaces, and based on that information, they initiate a normal walking pattern necessary to avoid obstacles and remain upright.
Enjoy a Fall-less Fall!
Susan Covey is the Director of Health and Fitness, Acts Bayleigh Chase