I fractured my hip two years ago and had to have a hip replacement. I did the whole rehab thing and came out okay. I notice I'm still a little tippy from time to time -- I have trouble keeping my balance. Is there anything I can do to improve my balance? I do work out at the gym (on the exercise equipment) three to four times a week.
It's not uncommon to have strength differences from side-to-side after a hip fracture. A strength-training program may help. But even more importantly, a balance-training program is needed.
Many times, strength-training is done in the seated position. This does not challenge the balance system, which is what is needed to improve balance. Improving balance also improves mobility and prevents falls that can lead to life-threatening or disabling fractures.
You can do some simple things to begin challenging and improving your balance. Stand on one foot and practice standing balance. At first you may need to hold on to a chair or countertop to avoid losing your balance and falling.
Keep your pelvis level (don't let one side drop down). Doing balance exercises in front of a mirror can help. Gradually increase the length of time you can stand on one leg without putting the foot down. You can do these standing balance exercises when you are standing in line at the store, while on the phone, or even while brushing your teeth.
Combining balance activities with strength training is important. For example, while balancing on one leg, swing your free leg out to the side and back to midline. Do this 10 to 12 times before switching to the other side. This exercise targets the hip and buttock muscles for good pelvic stability needed for balance.
Your public library may have some good videos (or DVDs) with a home-based exercise program to improve balance. If you need more specific help, see a physical therapist. The therapist can assess your individual needs and show you a home program tailored to your needs. With occasional visits, the therapist can progress you through the program safely and effectively.
Erja Portegijs, MSc, et al. Effects of Resistance Training on Lower-Extremity Impairments in Older People With Hip Fracture. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. September 2008. Vol. 89. No. 9. Pp. 1667-1674.
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