DECEMBER FOCUS – BALANCE AND FALLS

I have been trying to think of the musculoskeletal pitfalls of this time of year. In the clinic I am likely to be seeing more people suffering with osteoarthritic joints. The colder, lower pressure weather does aggravate these problems. Perhaps generally we’re all not as active and mobile. May be we’re staying indoors trying to keep warm?! So this can have an effect on the freedom of movement in our joints, and the tension in our body tissues.

Skiing injuries are a seasonal occurrence. If you are a skier or snowboarder, start preparing before you hit the slopes. It would be great practice to stretch before and after a day on the mountain. Why not try and prepare by strengthening your quadriceps muscles? Try squats – see below. THESE EXERCISES AREN’T JUST FOR SKIERS, THEY WILL BENEFIT ALL OF US TO HELP SUPPORT THE KNEE AND WORK OUR BOTTOMS.

These exercises shouldn’t cause pain, if you experience a problem, stop the exercise and consult your Osteopath or other medical practitioner. If you have an existing complaint, it would be wise to consult your practitioner to check these exercises are appropriate for you.

To perform a squat. Stand with a wide stance, slightly wider than hip width apart. Squat down by bending your knees, and sticking your bottom out behind you. As if you are trying to sit on an imaginary seat. Go as low as you can, but not beyond a 90 degree bend at the knee. Return to standing and repeat. Try reps of 15 to 30. You may wish to try and hold the squat for a count of 30.

Follow the squat with a quadriceps stretch.

To stretch the quadriceps at the front of the thigh. Hold onto a chair or wall for support if necessary and bring your heel up towards your bottom. Hold for a count of 30 on both sides.


It is also the time of year, where if the weather gets cold and icy, we are all susceptible to falls and further injury. Some may already have some balance issues, and need to take great care.

Balance training may be something to try. Those with a marked balance issue should make sure they are properly diagnosed by a doctor to make sure they receive the appropriate care and treatment. There are courses available in fall prevention, and special balance training programmes that may help.

Tai-chi is a gentle exercise for all age groups. It places emphasis on balance, co-ordination and movement.

For those that don’t have a specific problem, but would just like to improve their balance. The local gym may offer core stability and balance classes. Pilates and Yoga work to improve balance. A Wobble Board can be purchased quite inexpensively. It takes time to get used to, but is really good for balance, core muscles and lower extremity stability. Here is an exercise to start you off.

Stand on your wobble board next to a wall or chair for support. Practice tipping the board forwards, then backwards, then from side-to-side. You are working towards doing this without the need for support. There are many more exercises you could do to further aid your balance, and work on stabilising through the ankles. 


Other options are Bosu Balance Trainers/air discs (not dissimilar to wobble boards.) Nordic walking is a good activity, that amongst other benefits can help balance. Or be a great exercise if you have an existing problem as the walking poles add support (www.nordicwalking.co.uk). Do you have a Wii console? The balance board associated with this will, as the name implies, helps with balance training.
Stay well and warm over the festive period. Happy Christmas and Happy New Year!!