There are several body changes that can happen after a stroke. For many, these changes can
affect balance. A loss of balance is one of the main contributors to falls and low confidence
when walking, which can greatly impact the ability for people to get outside the house and
return to doing what they love.
Fortunately, balance is an ability that can be relearned after a stroke. Understanding the
reasons why and how someone’s balance is impaired is crucial to developing a plan that is
tailored to the individual’s unique needs.
What body systems help us balance?
Balance is achieved through a complex network of pathways between the brain and several
body systems. First, messages are sent to the brain from the eyes (vision), muscles
(proprioception), and inner ear (vestibular). The brain then sends signals back out to the
muscles and eyes to help maintain balance.
After a stroke, one or more of these signals can be impaired, which makes it harder to balance.
Balance training tips after a stroke
1) Train more affected balance pathways
For many people with a stroke, some balance pathways in the brain are more affected than
others. For example, if the signals from the muscles or inner ear aren’t being processed
correctly, someone may rely more on their eyes to hold their balance. This can make it more
challenging to balance if it’s dark outside. As a solution, training balance with the eyes closed
can help to better train the affected pathways.
2) Train in different environments
It can be easier or harder to balance depending on the situation we’re in. It’s often easier to
hold our balance when we’re still and not distracted, but that’s not often how we balance in our
everyday life! It’s harder to balance when you’re moving, distracted, or in a very busy
environment, like a crowded shopping mall. It’s important to train your body to hold your
balance in different environments, so it’s ready to face all the balance challenges in your life.
How can physiotherapy help?
Physiotherapists can help with designing a balance program that is tailored to the unique
challenges that come after experiencing a stroke. Your physiotherapist can also provide
personalized tips on strategies to increase confidence and avoid falls. This can include
recommending a gait aid such as a walker or a cane.
With a careful exercise routine and individualized recommendations, it is possible to recover
and return to moving with confidence. If you have any questions about how a physiotherapist
can help, contact us!
–Kelsey Vickers, Registered Physiotherapist
Click here to book with Kelsey!