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elder crutches     As we age, our feet and ankles lose muscle strength and proprioception (the ability to sense where we are spatially), which in turn affects our sense of balance. This loss of foot and ankle strength and proprioception begins to noticeably decline as early as our forties. Eventually, our bodies begin to rely less and less on the feet and ankles and more on the hips for balance and stability. This then becomes a risk factor for falls.
     Ankle sprains or other injuries also create instability, as does loss of sensation due to nerve impingement or diabetes and neurological diseases. Other structural issues, such as over-pronating the foot ( placing too much weight on the inside sole of the foot – or flat feet), or the opposite problem of over-supinating ( placing too much weight on the outside of the foot, creating a high arch) can create muscle imbalances throughout the lower body on up, sometimes even affecting the upper body through the spine.
karate balance     Chronic pain issues, such as plantar fasciitis, bunions or calf cramps, may also contribute to changes in walking or standing patterns, etc., and like Jenga, our body adjusts to accommodate these changes. Our knee or hip joints and their surrounding muscles and ligaments, might be affected by the shifts to their normal wear and tear patterns. In addition, not only do abnormal patterns of movement affect our lower extremities, but our low back and gluteals might feel strained. The use of high heels or  steel-toed boots, or those long hours on cement floors, etc., may also contribute to these problems.
     Creating a strategy for managing, correcting or preventing muscle and proprioception loss is essential for everyone: from the young athlete, to the elderly, not to mention the ever-increasing changes in balance a pregnant mother may experience. The healthcare professionals at New Leaf Wellness are trained to address all stages of life and the many challenges your feet and ankles may present. Talk to us on your next visit if you have concerns or would like to create a plan to support these essential foundations.
Sutterlin and Sayer, Proprioception: where are we now?.
as accessed 10-29-2015.
Low, Brauer and Nitz, Age-related changes in strength and somatosensation during midlife.
as accessed 10-29-2015.
Anzai, et al., Effects of Foot Arch Structure on Postural Stability.
as accessed 10-29-2015.

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