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Our balance system

  • Our muscles and joints send messages to the brain telling it where our body is as we move around.  If we have a problem with our skeleton or our muscles then we may find it harder to balance, such as neck and back problems which can upset our balance system.
  • Our eyes send information about where we are as we move around and we look at things to help orientate ourselves.  If we have problems with our eyes or our vision then this will affect our balance.
  • The balance organs in our ears send messages to the brain telling us where our head is as we move around. 

The brain has to take all the signals coming from these different parts and put them together to help us keep balanced.  If there is a problem with one part of the balance system the brain is quite good at finding ways to get around it, but sometimes it needs help to do this.

Our balance system is a very important part of the body.  If there is a problem with it, it can have a big effect on everything we do.  Keeping balanced is very important for our safety and if you have a problem the brain has to work harder to cope.  This can mean that you may be more likely to get tired, find it difficult to concentrate or remember things.  This makes it important that you don’t overdo things.  At the same time, it is important that you keep active because that helps the brain learn to cope with a balance problem.   

Improve your balance

There are some simple things you can do which can help improve your balance:

  • Eat little and often and have a regular breakfast. This helps keep blood sugar levels steady and will make it less likely that you will feel light headed or dizzy. The aim is not to eat more in a day, but to spread it out. It is best if you don’t have foods with high sugar, fat or salt content.
  • Drink plenty of fluid, particularly water. This helps keep the blood thin so that it is able to circulate well. This is very important in helping the balance organs in the ears work well. Try not to drink too much tea, coffee, alcohol or soft drinks as these may have a lot of caffeine in, which may affect you.
  • Our bodies need exercise to keep them working well.  Exercising strengthens our bodies by keeping our hearts healthy, giving us good bone and muscle mass, and making the blood circulate well by keeping blood pressure down.  Physical fitness is especially important for people who have a problem with balance.  One of the ways in which we balance is by using information sent from our muscles and joints to our brain.  Fit muscles are more toned and give better support and control to the body.
  • Regular exercise helps us mentally.  It relaxes us and can give a feeling of well being.  This is partly because of chemical changes in our bodies, but also because we feel fitter.
  • Exercise needs to be something that you find enjoyable and something that fits easily into a weekly routine.  You need to be able to exercise for thirty minutes a day, four to five times a week.  The simplest exercise is to walk briskly.  You should walk at a speed so that you would be able to hold a conversation with someone else at the same time – you don’t want to be out of breath. If you haven’t exercised for a long time, then check with your doctor that it is safe to do so.
  • Managing stress is also important.  Regular exercise is helpful in burning up the chemicals that make us feel stressed, but relaxation is also helpful in stopping us feeling stressed.  It is important that you have time for yourself during the day when you can do something that you enjoy.
  • Make sure you are taking the right medication, if appropriate, to help you deal with your balance problem.  Discuss your medication with your GP or Consultant so you know how it works and what to expect from it.

By doing these things you will be helping your body and brain manage your balance system better.  Feeling anxious and worried about a balance problem tends to make it worse so the more you can do to help yourself feel fit and well, the better you will be.