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Balance exercises for stroke patients are critical for improving walking confidence and returning to normal life

What is Balance?

Balance is the ability to maintain the center of mass (the body) within the base of support (the feet). Balance is also the ability of the ankles and hips to perform quick, automatic reactions when the body is disrupted. We do this via three mechanisms or balance strategies.

Why are balance exercises important for stroke patients?

When the body position is disrupted, there are three levels of response that humans use to recover their body position within the base of support to prevent a fall. These are ankle, hip, and a stepping strategy. 

Ankle Balance Strategy

An ankle balance strategy occurs when there is a little disruption in the body position within the feet.

Hip Balance Strategy

However, there are cases where the body is disrupted either by an external force and/or movement of the surface under the feet, where an ankle movement is not sufficient to reposition the body within the base of support (the feet). In this case, we quickly and automatically move to a hip strategy. By flexing and/or extending at the hips there is a greater likely hood that we can move the body far enough to reposition it back within the base of support. However, there are instances where this is also not sufficient. And when all else fails, we will quickly move to a stepping strategy.

Stepping Balance Strategy

A stepping balance strategy is necessary when the body is disrupted so far off the base of support that repositioning it over the base is just not possible. In this case, we must move the base of support to reposition it underneath the new body position to prevent a fall.

Generally speaking, a loss of balance and/or a fall will happen when all three of these balance strategies fail to engage in a timely and appropriate manner. 

What are the best balance exercises for stroke patients?

The best balance exercises to prevent a fall are exercises that challenge the ankle, hip, and stepping balance strategies. in the below video we will review these types of exercises that are specifically designed to help “strengthen” the balance system and prevent a fall.