Our sense of balance comes from a few different areas of the body. The inner ear gives us input on the position of our head and whether we are moving. This is combined with input from the eyes, which gives similar information. Most people think this is where it ends, but the spine is also integral to maintaining proper balance.
Tiny nerve endings in the spinal column send information about position and movement up the spinal cord and into our brains where it is integrated with information from the ears and eyes. A person can become imbalanced through disease in any of these areas: eyes, ears, and spine. Inner ear infections—and also head and neck trauma—can dislodge the tiny particles in the inner ear that give us balance feedback. The spine can also be injured through traumas to ligaments and muscles. In addition to neck trauma, patients with low back trauma can also have their balance affected.
Patients with chronic low back pain tend to have more sway to their posture, which means there is less margin for error if one trips or misses a step. There is also reduced response time, which is needed for unexpected events. Part of the rehabilitation of chronic low back pain involves getting back the sense of balance if it has been affected.
You may find when your postural muscles are strengthened, back pain is reduced. Even more important than this, strengthened postural muscles can help prevent falls, which occur more frequently when your sense of balance is affected by disease.
Can you stand on one leg for five seconds or twenty? Have you fallen or had a few near misses in the past month? Have you broken a bone due to a fall?
Your doctor of chiropractic can diagnose why you may be suffering from both balance problems and low back pain. A home exercise and balance program can be prescribed to make sure your spinal muscles and joints give proper input into the brain. You’ll probably start by standing on one leg, if you can do that, and then progress slowly through more challenging postures, such as bending your knee, or moving one leg around. It’s important that a doctor evaluate you before commencing with balance exercises.
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