Arm strengthening may be an overlooked component of balance training.
As I was researching grip strength and seniors, it occurred to me that arm strengthening may be an overlooked area in balance and fall prevention. Many times when a patient is having difficulty with balance we focus on footwear, assistive devices (walker, cane), fall prevention education, and leg strengthening. Many post operative patients don’t even have an occupational therapy evaluation (which is frustrating!). Frequently, I have found myself as a PT focused on so many other areas, that I haven’t had time to introduce arm exercises.
After having shoulder surgery, your balance is decreased, and you are at greater risk of fall .
Typically when a person has shoulder surgery, they have limited use of the surgical arm, and are stabilized in a sling. A natural instinct of our body is to use our hands to protect ourselves, and reach out to brace a fall. Another reaction we instinctively have, is to spread our ams out when our balance is challenged. Doing this increases our base of support, and reduces the possibility of falling. Restricting the mobility and use of one arm limits those instinctive protective mechanisms. Of course it is important to evaluate safety equipment, proper home set up, and knowledge for fall prevention. However, it is imperative with patients who have had shoulder surgery (Mandl, 2013) to safely assess and strengthen the other components of balance (vision, leg and trunk strength, balance reactions).
Patients can benefit from arm strengthening exercises to improve function.
Strengthening upper extremities is important for daily activities. Cooking, cleaning, dressing, and grooming all depend on healthy arm strength and motion. Exercises can reduce pain, increase mobility, and improve quickness in performance with all of these activities. Consequently, a good program of arm strengthening can contribute to keeping someone independent.
Patients can benefit from arm strengthening exercises to improve safety and balance.
Having strong arms may also provide protection and help us maintain equilibrium as we perform challenging activities (ironing, carrying laundry, reaching overhead, etc). Shoulder muscles are closely connected with our “core”. If we perform arm/ shoulder exercises in good posture with a tightened core, our strengthened core will also lead to improved balance.
I frequently include chin tucks:
and shoulder blade squeezes:
with most shoulder programs for core strengthening and alignment. Always follow the advice of your own personal clinician.
Don’t underestimate the precaution for safety if you have a weakened or injured shoulder/upper extremity, or the importance of strengthening arms and shoulders within a good balance program!
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What do you think? I would love to hear what tips or tools you use to improve balance and strengthen shoulders!
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