Our head mobility can be affected by neck problems as well as vestibular issues.
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Other factors can contribute to balance problems, such as neck issues, orthopedic problems, and back problems. They can limit someone’s head movement, often due to discomfort or stiffness.
Imagine an orthopedic issue, say from a neck injury or just neck pain in general, disrupting balance. This could trigger a vestibular problem, or vice versa, creating a chicken-or-egg scenario. Sometimes, it’s challenging to determine which came first, especially if both have been ongoing for a long period.
Take, for instance, a situation where someone sustains a neck injury. Because of that injury, they limit their head movement, and then their balance system declines, possibly leading to dizziness because they’re not moving their head for extended periods. Conversely, one can start with a balance or vestibular problem, experience dizziness, limit their head movement in response, and then end up with neck pain as their neck muscles tighten.
If these issues have been ongoing for an extended period, it can be challenging to figure out which started first. Regardless, finding a solution involves addressing both problems, hence the importance of individualized approaches to these issues. Identifying the root cause of the problem is crucial when dealing with balance disorders.
Generalized balance training might give people a set of standard exercises, like standing with eyes open or closed, standing on one leg, or walking while turning one’s head. While these exercises can be beneficial, they may not target the specific cause of the individual’s balance problem.
Someone may have a balance problem due to complete proprioceptive loss. Their legs might not relay accurate spatial information to the brain. This situation is very different from a person with a weak vestibular system but perfectly intact proprioception. If the proprioception is entirely lost, you must compensate for that by strengthening their vestibular system, improving their confidence, and bettering their walking ability.
Additionally, balance problems can stem from orthopedic or muscle issues. For instance, weakened hip muscles, specifically the muscles on the side, are a common problem, especially in the older population. Unless individuals engage in activities that incorporate lateral movements, like rollerblading, CrossFit, and band walks, these muscles can become weaker with time.
Even amongst elite athletes, including a 16-year-old kid involved in advanced high school sports, it’s not uncommon to observe weak hip muscles, especially when considering the demanding level of performance required by these sports.