Your vestibular system is a tiny, little known, and extremely important structure in your skull. It’s a labyrinthine structure within each inner ear that acts as both a level and accelerometer. Three canals function on an X, Y, Z axis and 2 bulbous otoliths compose the core of it. Together these structures sense every type of directional movement the head performs (see fig. 2). The vestibular system works constantly to answer the following questions:
Which way is up?
Which direction am I traveling through space?
This amazing system, in combination with our vision, is in charge of our balance. In our day-to-day lives, you can imagine just how important this sense of balance is. Each time you bend down to pick something up, you know exactly how to coordinate your body to fold yourself over and stand back up right. When you turn a corner, you know exactly how far to turn and how to straighten yourself out to continue. When you are in yoga, you can transition from standing, to sideways, to upside down, to backwards, to sideways and all the way back up again. Anytime that your head is still, moving in space, or changing its orientation to gravity (sooooooo always) your vestibular system is sending sensory signals to the brain about what you’re doing, and in turn the brain organizes the body to support that action.
Now let’s think about times when your vestibular system is not working as it should. Sea sickness, disorientation, falling**, vertigo, scoliosis, trouble doing activities like riding a bike, skiing/snowboarding, balancing in yoga, or avoiding activities in which head movement is common are all signs of vestibular degradation. Most people who experience vestibular deficits often think they are just clumsy but in reality your coordination and balance can easily be improved with surprisingly simple head, eye, and body movements.
Want to test this out with me? Here’s a simple video for testing your vestibular system. I recommend you do this in a park because parks are beautiful. 🙂
A few notes about the video because the video is not perfectly stated:
- Always test before beginning and retest after each pattern. Choose a balance challenge like standing with feet together (if your balance really sucks already), on one leg, or on one leg with eyes closed.
- This video combines multiple patterns whereas normally we would isolate each movement. If you find that these patterns really affect your balance for better or worse, please reach out for help.
- “Ideally we keep training the good patterns,” is what I said but we need to train the harder patterns within the good patterns to actually rehabilitate.
Vestibular therapy sessions start at $50! To improve your balance, call Kiera at 385-429-0515 today!
**The most common place we see vestibular degradations are in senior citizens. Falls are a combination or poor sight, compromised strength & coordination but mostly, people have a hard time KNOWING that they are falling.. until it’s too late. That’s a vestibular issue. For more information on fall prevention, click here!