by Katie Culver
For a lot of you, you come in for your adjustment, and afterwards, I ask you to do a few minutes of balance work. Whether its performing exercises while balancing on the exercise ball, Bosu, balance disk, or even just standing on one of the balance boards, I’m sure you’ve wondered why. Rest assured… there is method to our madness.
Because life is lived, at times, in unstable positions (such as walking on icy surfaces in the winter, running on uneven ground, or dodging toys and other obstacles as you chase your kiddos around the house),working on balance boards helps you safely and quickly keep up with the demands of life. Working on balance boards improves the strength of the small muscles of the foot and lower leg, improves reaction time, reduce the incidence of injury, increases your body’s awareness of where it is at in space, improves movement mechanics, and helps the body to work together as a whole!
One of the main reasons that we want to do balance work with our patients is to increase your proprioception (your body’s awareness of where it is at in space… ie knowing where your foot or arm is at without having to look down at it). After a spinal adjustment, when the body is in its corrected alignment, working on a balance board creates continuous neural stimulus that is perceived as information in the brain. It reinforces that correct alignment and encourages the body to remain in that position (which in turn would lead to more spread out adjustments).
Conclusive research has also been done with balance boards. In one study, it was found that simple balance exercises, as part of early treatment for injuries such as ankle sprains, increases the strength and stability of the joint and therefore decreases the chance for residual symptoms and sprains. Additional research has shown that exercising on these unstable surfaces significantly strengthens muscles when tested against stable equipment. For instance, in one particular study, untrained men approximately doubled abdominal muscle activity when a crunch was executed on an exercise ball versus a static bench.
So if you want a stronger and quicker body whose muscles all work together in unison, try doing exercises on unstable surfaces. Remember, though, to be safe and begin easy, with no weight, and progressively get more difficult, as exercises on these surfaces can be deceivingly difficult!