All About Your Balance

Dynamic standing balance is the ability to keep your the body balanced while changing its position. Standing balance is a very important component of most weight-bearing tasks and many other essential functions in life. The feet and ankles, because they connect the leg with the ground, play a major role in standing balance. Any impact on them can therefore alter balance. For these reasons, there are a number of physical therapy treatments that are designed to improve standing balance for injuries to the leg, such as ankle instability, ankle sprain, and heel pain. While some of these treatments have been proven to be effective, others have not yet been confirmed by research. In an attempt to clear this up, a study was performed in which one type of manual therapy treatment, called rearfoot distraction manipulation, was tested on dynamic standing balance.

A small group of healthy individuals undergoes treatment

The study was conducted using a group of 20 individuals between the ages of 18-35 with known balance disorders but who did not have any current or recent (in the last six months) ankle or foot injuries. After each patient was assessed, using a number of different balance tests, a physical therapist performed a rearfoot distraction manipulation, which is a technique that repeatedly moves the foot in a specific direction. Immediately after the manipulation, each patients’ overall balance was tested once again.

Manipulation technique shown to improve dynamic balance for patients

Results from this study showed that the manipulation technique led to improvements in dynamic balance immediately after these patients were tested again, following treatment. While it was not proven in this study, the improvements found here may also lead to other changes in functional performance, such as improving overall gait as well. Manual therapy manipulations, such as those performed in this study, are often combined with other therapies to improve balance and overall function in patients with injuries to the foot or ankle, or who experience balance issues. The results presented here point out that after only one session, this type of physical therapy can be beneficial for patients, even without other treatments. Therefore, if you happen to be experiencing any problems with your balance, or if you’ve suffered an injury to the foot or ankle that’s affected your balance, seeing a physical therapist can be a great option that will help you improve your balance and get you moving around better.

-As reported in the November 2013 edition of Manual Therapy