Mastering Gravity: How do you improve your balance?
In a previous blog, we discussed how our lack of play and challenge has slowly led to decrements in our balance. Research in the Age and Ageing Journal (2013) has proven that less active lifestyles appear to accelerate loss of proprioceptive acuity and thus would contribute to loss of functional independence and increased falls.
So the question we are to ponder is…. Can we improve our balance after years of not using it?
The easy answer is yes! So how does it work? The best way of understanding how we can approach this issue is looking at the science behind it. To improve overall balance we need to ensure our body is skilled at interpreting what is happening to our body (through taking in sensory input) and then how we can try maintain a position of safety (motor output). For example, as we walk down the street and we trip on a paver. We first need to recognise that we are falling. Physiologically this sensory input is acquired a few ways:
- Vestibular system within the inner ear (the sensations of body rotation, gravitation and movement)
- Somatosensory systems (conscious perception of touch, pressure, pain, temperature, position, movement, and vibration, which arise from the muscles, joints, skin, and fascia)
- Visual system (seeing where our body position is in space)
These signals then travel through nervous system and the brain or spinal chord either create conscious or unconscious motor output which generates a movement. In our example, this would result in a very large sidestep to prevent us from falling. To perform the request we need muscular strength, power and co-ordination.
Training the sensory input and motor output:
- Proprioception exercises: This allows us to train us to recognise where our body is in space
- Co-ordination exercises: This allows us to create the desired movement with the appropriate muscles (to save the day)
- Strength exercises: This allows us the necessary strength to produce the actions
If you would like more information regarding your ability to master your own gravity, I am more than happy to have a chat.
I was reading about the upcoming Tasting Australia Festival in the Weekend Australia on Sunday- I must add whilst drinking a 2007 Adelaide Hills Riesling and eating an ashed chevre, also from the Hills. Sundays should be filled with such acts of hedonism. Amidst my indulgence though, I realised that I wasn’t really tasting either the wine or the cheese. I mean, I could taste them, but I wasn’t really engaged in them to the extent they deserved. Rather I was pouring them at such a gluttonous pace they would have been better served in a trough, together.
Yesterday marked ‘Pause for Parkinson’s’ day. A day to recognize and show loving kindness and compassion to ones who suffer this debilitating neurodegenerative disease.
When we think of Parkinson’s disease (PD) , Michael J Fox who sadly was diagnosed in 1991 at the tender age of 30 usually comes to mind. To be diagnosed at the age of 30 is very rare, with most Parkinsonian disorders becoming of age within 1% of individuals older than 60 (http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1831191-overview).
Parkinsonian is categorized into two components Degenerative and non-degenerative (Dickson, 2012). Degenerative speaks for itself, and I will touch on the neuropathogenesis (causes) to appreciate the complexities and again to show an abundance of loving kindness and compassion that patients go through on a daily basis.
I have used the term ‘parkinsonian’ for the reason that there is a combination of disorders associated with PD. And each PD patient will differ with their symptoms. BUT, the two main pathological issues seen in PD is the protein Alpha Synuclein and destruction of the Nigrostriatal pathway. Now please don’t let me scare you with the above (insert scary emoji here) I will simplify the two.
Alpha Synuclein is a membrane bound protein found in the brain which is involved in signalling chemical messengers (neurotransmitters). This is normal, and needed. But the complexity of the human organism. Normally functioning proteins such as alpha synuclein in the PD patient goes through a complex aggregation pathway (I fast forwarded things here) resulting in Lewy bodies, which are a neurotoxic protein. Neurotoxic proteins like lewy bodies develop inside nerve cells and subsequently kill off the dopaminergic signalling which leads us into the Nigrostriatal pathway.
The nigrostriatal pathway involves the projection of the neurotransmitter dopamine that we are all familiar with. The dopaminergic neurons are involved in areas (pathways) that involve movement. The main area that looses it’s vital dopaminergic neurons is the Substantia nigra. The substantia nigra is rich in dopamine and a lot of the motor symptoms you see in PD patients such rigidity and bradykinesia are a result of the substantia nigra loosing it’s vital dopamine.
So that wasn’t all to fun was it? Let’s talk about what is promising. The brain’s way of healing by Norman Doidge M.D. Is a wonderful book that brings light into the growing evidence that the brain is ‘plastic’ or neuroplasticity. Norman’s book discusses a patient who suffers from PD, who was debunked by neurologist’s because his symptoms improved by conscious walking or neuroplastic remodeling. By consciously paying attention to gait and how plastic the brain is. The patients symptoms improved and continued to improve as long as physical activity was maintained. WELL! what do you know? physical activity is neuroprotective. Who would have thought…
Well that was a eyeful.
I hope you all learn’t something new about PD. And have some more loving kindness towards PD sufferers. This was simplified for many complex reasons so happy to give out more information.
Author: James Smith