Balance or Proprioception Issues

Subconsciously, we use our vestibular system (inner ear) and proprioceptors (located in muscles and ligaments) to know where the parts of our bodies are without looking at them. This proprioception is what allows us to reach out an arm to flip on a light switch in the dark or drive a car without watching our feet on the pedals. It also is what allows us to walk, talk, hold an object, and generally navigate our lives. Balance and proprioception can be temporarily impaired after imbibing too much alcohol (this is why drunk driving tests usually involve having a driver touch the index finger to his or her nose). Nerve and neuron damage can lead to more permanent balance and proprioception issues by interfering with the feedback loop between the brain and the body’s proprioceptors. Some other causes of balance and proprioception issues include viral infections, multiple sclerosis, poison, injury, and lack of blood or oxygen to the brain. For long-term proprioception and balance issues, physical therapy treatment is focused on stimulating nerve or muscle repair and retraining the neural connections. Some exercises that are effective include balancing on wobble boards, running in figure-eight patterns, and walking in a cross-over pattern.