Balance can be defined as an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Being able to maintain one’s balance is key to decreasing falls and fall related injuries. But how do we keep an even distribution of weight to remain upright?
We need to be aware of our base of support, this means the area beneath a person and where they are making contact with the surface using their feet. A base of support can be narrow or wide. When it comes to maintaining an upright posture having a wide base of support is believed to be indicative of having a unsteady gait pattern. This means that the steps that a person are taking are smaller in stride length than they generally should be, increasing the chance of having an unsteady gait pattern. What is considered a normal gait pattern is having steps occur in the pattern of heelstrike, foot flat, midstance, push off, acceleration, midswing and deceleration. However, deviations from this patterning can lead to having an unsteady or abnormal gait pattern which means there is more room for one of the 6 types of abnormalities to be present. Theses abnormalities are classified as:
Spastic- the dragging of the feet and appearance of stiffness while walking;
Scissors- the legs tend to bend inwards can cause the legs to cross and hit each other while walking;
Steppage- when the toes are pointing towards the ground causing the toes to scrape against the ground;
Waddling- when walking there is a side to side motion and the step length is shorter;
Propulsive- when a person walks holding the body rigid in a slouched position with the neck pushed forward;
Other- walking with a limp;
Through the use of balance and stepping exercises, improvements can be seen to step and stride length, that then can potentially have the effect of improving gait and decreasing the risk of falls.