Can You Balance On A Single Leg?... And Why Is That Important?

If you’re a competitive athlete, grandparent, or fall anywhere in between, balance is important.  Balance may sound simple but it’s not.  In order to balance well, your brain needs to communicate with the muscles and nerves in your body.  Proprioception is a word used to describe your body’s ability to sense joint position.  If you have good proprioception, the better you’ll adjust to quick changes in movement and decrease the risk of getting injured or falling.  

Many athletes or weekend warriors with chronic ankle pain may benefit from balance training in order to fine tune proprioceptive function.  Even if you aren’t experiencing ankle pain or weakness while engaging in your sport, balance training should be incorporated for injury prevention.  Another scenario in which balance training may be helpful is if you have a fear of falling when you walk.  You may not feel comfortable taking a step forward and walking “normally” looks more like a shuffle.

Even if you don’t specifically practice balance, you're balancing every time you walk. When you take a step forward, you have to stabilize yourself on the opposite leg to keep you upright.  Walking can be described as "controlled falling" and having good balance will minimize fall risk. 

Having good balance is important but that’s only part of the bigger picture.  It’s also necessary to have adequate mobility and strength to make the act of balancing easier.  For example, if we don’t have enough ankle mobility, that might cause us to shift our center of mass backwards because of that ankle restriction.  If we don’t have enough hip strength, we may tilt sideways in order to compensate for that weakness which may lead to low back pain.

It is super important to get assessed because these balance difficulties may be a contributor to your present pain or a predictor of something even bigger in the future. 

Dr. Raymond Shing, Physical Therapist