What is Balance?
Balance is a person’s ability to maintain upright posture in a stable or changing environment. There are two types of balance: static and dynamic. Static balance is the ability to maintain balance while stationary. Dynamic balance is the ability to maintain balance while in motion. A person’s balance system consists of three components. The first component is the visual aspect, which is depth perception, velocity, and motor perception. The second part is the vestibular system which is the inner ear and is the balance of the crystalized structures in the inner ear’s semi-circular canals. The third part is the somatosensory system which is the force from the ground through our joints while we are in different positions. Another important aspect of maintaining either static or dynamic balance is postural control. Postural control is a motor skill that results from many interactions within the somatosensory system and is required to maintain upright posture through everchanging environments. Postural control is important to develop and strengthen to improve a child’s static and dynamic balance.
How do I know if my child has Balance issues?
Does your child fall multiple times a day? Falling can be normal for a new walker, but as a child grows and gets used to walking, the falling should also decrease. If your child is still falling at the same rate they were as a new walker, they could have problems with their balance. Has your child experienced delays in reaching their gross motor milestones? This can include sitting up, pulling to stand, and even walking. If your child is delayed in any of these gross motor milestones, they could have a problem with their balance. Does your child complain of dizziness with positional changes or even just with standing? This complaint can be caused by deficits in a child’s balance system. A child being dizzy throughout the day can lead to some unsafe situations and increase their risk of falling.
Physical Therapists are trained and educated on treatment principles that change different task demands and activities that challenge but does not exceed a child’s capabilities. These challenging tasks and demands are set to improve a child’s postural control, their vestibular system, their visual demands, and their somatosensory system.
Examples of changing tasks to challenge a child’s balance include:
- Altering their base of support (becoming more narrow, or putting one foot in front of the other)
- Starting in a static position, like sitting, and progressing to a dynamic activity, like jumping up and down.
- Changing the standing surface. Adding pillows or even doing balance activities on an exercise ball.
- There are even ways to challenge a child’s visual response to their environment. Therapists can do this by distorting their vision, covering up one eye, or even dimming the lights.
The Physical Therapists at Mount Pleasant Pediatric Therapy are qualified to address and challenge any balance deficits that a child is experiencing. They will work on establishing an appropriate home exercise program and provide education on the balance systems that are being challenged with each activity during the treatment session. Physical Therapist’s number one priority is to make every activity fun and engaging for every child! This increase’s the child’s participation in some challenging activities, but brings out the most improvements in their balance.