The ability to maintain upright balance is necessary for both standing and walking. But life can throw you a bump or an uneven surface. Either of these can cause you to lose your balance. As a stroke survivor, you may need to learn new balance recovery techniques. Ask your therapist about stepping with both legs, stepping with your nonpreferred leg, and side-stepping.
About the study
Canadian researchers studied how 19 post-stroke patients recovered balance after being nudged. All patients were able to stand unassisted for at least 30 seconds. Therapist set each patient off balance from the standing position multiple times during the study. The patients stood on a movable platform that made surprise movements forward, backward, left, and right. Most therapists test patients’ balance recovery by nudging only backward. In this study, the researchers examined how patients recovered their balance when the jostling came from all four sides.
Patients in the study usually sought to recover their balance by crossover steps or side-stepping. However, researchers observed other stepping patterns during the study. The best results came from patients who stepped with both legs or made a single side-step motion. The researchers suggested that learning to side-step with the nonpreferred limb could be beneficial.
What does this mean for you?
Staying balanced is a complex activity, as anyone with a leg or foot impairment can attest. The floor of your home and the ground outside may be uneven. You must be able to recover quickly, or you risk falling. Talk with your therapist about how you can best place your feet when you sense that you are off balance.
The lead author for this study is Alison Schinkel-Ivy, School of Physical & Health Education, Nipissing University, NorthBay, Ontario, Canada.