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Balance Training

This article appeared in the California Chiropractic Journal
In-Office Rehab and Balance Training by Dr. Jeffrey Tucker, DC

The doctors that I get to teach, and those that I meet who include exercise therapy in their practice appear to create better client satisfaction and experience better patient retention. Patients enjoy the participation in their care that exercise therapy provides.
More than thirty-five years ago, when I was a teenager, going to the gym and working out was for kids and parents who already had an active lifestyle. The typical ‘old school’ gym program included a ten minute bike or treadmill warm up, a 40-50 minute strength training regime—usually in a muscle group split, and then on “off-days,” 20-30 minutes of cardio.

Today’s ‘new school’ exercise programs consists of foam roll therapy (self myofascial release) for 10 minutes, stretching of overactive muscles for 5-10 minutes, core stability exercises for 5-10 minutes, balance training for 5 minutes, reactive training and speed, agility and quickness training for 5-10 minutes, intense strength training for 20-25 minutes, metabolic/cardiovascular training for 10-15 minutes and 5 minutes for cooling down.

Many clients that come to us may already be doing any or all of these exercise strategies on their own at home or in the gym. My role as a rehab specialist is to write corrective exercise programs, teach clients how to perform the exercises and guide them into progressions that help eliminate pain.

Additional therapeutic goals may include injury prevention, decreased body fat, increased lean muscle mass, increased strength, increased endurance, increased flexibility, and enhanced performance.

You can have a very successful exercise practice in your office using Therabands, especially the ones with handles, a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, a sturdy exercise bench that inclines, a swiss ball, a wobble board, or rocker board, or bosu.

I break up each of the “new school” categories of exercise in my in-office treatment sessions. After the acute care phase, I start by training clients in the use of the 3-foot-by-6-inchwide foam roll. This method of self myofascial release is used to inhibit overactive muscles. Holding pressure on the tender areas of tissue (trigger points) for a sustained period of time, usually 30 seconds per tender point,can diminish trigger point activity. Patients are expected to use the foam roll at home on their own. This is followed by a session where I teach clients how to stretch.

Following use of the foam roll, the application of a lengthening technique (static stretching) resets the muscle lengths and provides for optimal length-tension relationships. Once patients are foam rolling and stretching at home, the subsequent in-office session is used to teach isolated strengthening exercises. This session time is used to teach clients how to isolate and exercise a particular muscle. For example, a common underactive muscle is the gluteus medius. The side lying hip abduction exercise would be taught to increase the force production capabilities through concentric-eccentric muscle actions.

Isolated exercises focus on the muscles of the body that have synergistic function of the stabilization and mobilization system.

Additional sessions are required to train clients in integrated dynamic strengthening exercises. This will ensure an increase in intra- and intermuscular coordination, endurance strength and optimal force-couple relationships that will produce proper arthrokinematics.

An important exercise therapy often overlooked by clinicians, is that prior to resistance training, balance training should be performed, because it has preconditioning effects
on strength training. Our everyday clients face the challenges of keeping balance to perform activities such as playing with their children or grandchildren, walking on uneven surfaces or even taking a walk in their neighborhood.

‘New school’ exercise programs realize balance is a skill-related component of physical fitness. It is important to incorporate balance training in every client’s corrective exercise program as an integrated component to a comprehensive training regimen.

Balance can be influenced by many factors. As we age, our ability to balance or maintain postural control decreases. Watch seniors maneuver steps and stairs. Those who lack the ability to decelerate and control their center of gravity have a significant risk potential of a devastating fall. Prior injuries, especially after ankle sprains, ligamentous injuries to the knee, and low back pain can also decrease an individual’s ability to balance.

A joint dysfunction in the ankle, knee, shoulder, or low back can lead to muscle inhibition. An acute joint injury may cause joint swelling, which results in an interruption in the internal communication process of the body–sensory input from receptors such as articular, ligamentous, and muscular mechanoreceptors to the central nervous system. In turn, this changes our proprioceptive capabilities. When sensory input to the central nervous system is altered, our movement system may become imbalanced.
Repetitive recruitment of the wrong muscle fibers, in the same ROM/Plane of motion and at the same speed, creates tissue overload and eventual injury. Consequentially, this can lead to neuromuscular inefficiency, resulting in decreased balance and postural instability.

Recovery from injury needs to include repairing faulty movement patterns (alterations in stability) and correcting inefficient neuromuscular control. Through balance training,
the central nervous system can be exercised to change and improve a lack of joint stabilization that is causing functional instability.

Don’t forget to address balance as a component of a training program. Balance training may be used not only for reconditioning clients post injury, but also as a preventative measure to increase postural stability and reduce the chances of injury.

Dr. Jeffrey Tucker, D.C., D.A.C.R.B, is
a rehabilitation specialist, author,
lecturer, and healer best known
for his holistic approach in supporting
the body’s inherent healing
mechanisms and for integrating
the art and science of chiropractic,
exercise, nutrition and attitudinal
health. He instructs for the National
Academy of Sports Medicine and
the Chiropractic Rehabilitation Association.
He practices in West Los
Angeles, CA.

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