Skip to main content

Balance Facts

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.


Overview of Balance

Balance is an interesting concept. Merriam Webster defines balance as: ‘to become balanced or established in balance’ and ‘to be an equal counterbalance.’ We all look for balance in life. We must eat, but not overeat. We work hard, but we need to relax sometimes. We must sleep, but we can not stay in bed around the clock.

Have you ever thought about why you can stand upright and not fall? Have you ever gotten dizzy and fallen? Or, maybe you may have tripped and lost your balance. It seems the balance our bodies enjoy is fairly complicated.

Some young men thought they could get out of serving in the Vietnam war by cutting off their big toe. While the big toe helps with balance, cutting off the big toe will only slow you down and not save you from the service. A 1988 study concluded that people who had their big toe amputated had changes in their gait and the forces generated by their body when they walked.

Have you ever sat on a train looking out the window while the train was not moving, but it suddenly feels as if the train is moving. This feeling is called “vection.” You may have seen another train start to move. When something takes up a large part of your visual field “vection” may occur.


The Ear’s Effect on Balance

In addition to hearing, the ear is also essential to our sense of balance because deep inside the ear is the inner ear, which contains three semicircular canals filled with fluid.

The inner ear is located just under the brain. Each canal has small hair cells, and each one is responsible for a specific direction of head movement. Each canal also responds to a specific movement of the head.

There are otolith organs under these canals that also have thin sensory hairs. There are small crystals on these hair cells, and they detect acceleration, such as an elevator ride or if we fall.

The vestibular system sends information processed by the brain and sends it to organs that need the information, such as the joints or eyes.

How The Ear Works

Interrupted Sense of Balance

If your sense of balance is interrupted the effect would be disorientation, dizziness or nausea. An inner ear infection, Ménière's disease, superior canal dehiscence syndrome or even a bad cold can affect your balance. There are also several other medical conditions that may cause vertigo. Being hit in the head, especially when the blow hits the ear can affect equilibrioception.

Astronauts sometimes have an impaired sense of balance due to their constant state of weightlessness, which causes a type of motion sickness called space adaptation syndrome.

Aging Effect on Balance

Aging can cause some impairment in three of the systems that assist us with balance, and they include:

  • Vestibular system
  • Vision
  • Proprioception
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Youmemindbody

When you consider reduced muscle strength and flexibility along with any of the listed impairments, older adults are at a higher risk for falling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of adults over age sixty-five experience a fall each year.

Interior of the Ear

Interior of the Ear

Vection Explained

Vection is the sensation of body movement caused by visual stimulation. It may cause disorientation, due to the brain experiencing a conflict from sensory information that is coming from different sources, according to the Vestibular Disorder Association (VeDA).

For instance, when you are on a train your body’s sensory receptors tell you that you are not moving but your vision tells you that you are moving. Extra information from your vestibular system may override this conflict, according to VeDA.

Migraine Headaches

Approximately forty percent of the people with migraines experience dizziness or some balance problem. Dizziness may occur during the migraine headache or at a different time. VeDA refers to this as migraine-associated vertigo. Researchers are not sure why this occurs, but some think the brain signaling is affected with the migraine, and it may slow the brain’s ability to interpret sensory information from the eyes, inner ear and the muscles. Another theory is that the dizziness is caused by the release of particular chemicals in the brian.


Mal de Débarquement Syndrome

Some people who have been on a boat feel like they are still swaying even when they get off the boat. This sensation can last for a few hours, days or even years. People with these symptoms are said to have Mal de Débarquement Syndrome. Researchers do not know why some people get this syndrome.

Hypnic Jerk

The hypnic jerk is a tumbling sensation at bedtime that may include a visual hallucination. This sensation is also called the myoclonic jerk.


Ménière's Disease

Ménière's disease is a disorder in the inner ear that has episodes of making you feel like the world is spinning, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and a feeling of fullness in the ear. This disorder usually begins in one ear, but eventually both ears are involved. These episodes may last from twenty minutes to a few hours. The tinnitus and hearing loss may become constant over time.

The cause of this disorder is unknown, but it may be a genetic disorder. Motion sickness or anti-nausea medications are the only treatments. Hearing aids may be necessary if you have balance problems, and rehabilitation is often ordered.


If you have weakness, numbness or paralysis in extremities an ischemic stroke (clot or emboli) or hemorrhagic stroke (ruptured blood vessel) stroke is the probable cause. If the stroke occurs in the cerebellum, balance and coordination will be affected. Early treatment helps with any long term effects, but nine out of ten people have some balance problems following a stroke.

3 Simple Balance Exercises For Beginners

Final Thoughts

Balance problems can certainly affect your life is a major way. There are numerous reasons for balance problems and many have an unknown cause. Genetic disorders or environmental factors may be the cause. The treatments seem to be limited as well, but early treatment almost always provides a better outcome.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 17, 2021:

Hi Flourish,

That is a very nice feature of the Apple watch. I think anyone would like that information. Thank you for your comment.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 16, 2021:

For anyone with an Apple Watch there is a very neat feature in the health app that reports out (if you select it) on your balance and walking strides — how quick your paces are, whether you’re favoring one side or the other, whether you’re taking short itty bitty steps or bigger ones, etc. And it shows time of day. Good information related to balance. It has shown me I walk better than I thought I did.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 16, 2021:

Hi again Brenda,

I so appreciate you comments Life is so frustrating at times that I would like to shout out. Other times I take it as it comes. I suppose that is true for most people. I am trying hard to get strong, but noew we are loaded with pollen, so I am back on antibiotics. LOL!

Once you get that second vaccine you will feel safer, at least I know I did. Get that MRI as I hope that result will be good I hope.

Blessings t o9 you Brenda!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on March 16, 2021:

Thanks Peggy,

I'm not sure how much the gamma knife has helped, but I'm still functioning.

I was supoosed to have MRI in December, but I keep pushing it back due to Covid-19.

Maybe after my next covid vaccine on the 24th I will call to schedule one.

I'm sorry to hear you are in a wheelchair.

I do hope your therapy keeps improving so you can manage everything.

Take care & if you every need to shout at somone..i have an ear. Be glad to listen.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 16, 2021:

Hi Shauna,

I am glad you found this article interesting. As I understand proprioception, it has to do with knowing the position of your body. I wish I could give you a better explanation,

I think what you described may by the Hypnic Tick. It is a good idea to always be aware of balance. Thank you so much for your comments. Take care!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 16, 2021:

Hi Adrienne,

It is fortunate that your grandmother was never injured. I would think you need to be very careful to stay hydrated as being dehydrated can cause low blood pressure.

Thank you so much for your comments. Take care.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 16, 2021:

This is a very interesting article, Pamela. A few times in my life I've felt myself falling while asleep and will literally feel myself sinking into the mattress. I wonder if this is a form of Hypnic Tick. Hmmm.

Tell me, what is proprioception? I've never heard of the word.

Balance is something we need to keep an eye on as we age.

Thanks for the info, Pamela!

Adrienne Farricelli on March 16, 2021:

We often take out balance for granted, until one day we start feeling dizzy. What a horrible feeling! I have had bouts of dizziness due to low blood pressure at times. My grandma at 85 lost a good portion of her balance as she got older, (would almost fall) but they never figured out what caused it. It was scary watching her struggle as she held on to whatever was in her path to prevent a fall. They tested her ears, blood sugar and lots more. It was very frustrating. Luckily, she never got hurt from a fall, but it was bad to endure nonetheless.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 16, 2021:

Hi Doris,

Since you have never had very good balance I wonder if it somehow a genetic issue. I really don't know. It is a shame yoga didn't help. I'm glad you liked the article.

I appreciate your comments. Have a good week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 16, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I figured a ballerina was perfect for the balance topic. I am glad you found the article informative,

Thank you so much for your comments. Take care.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 15, 2021:

I learned a lot from this article, Pamela. I've never had good balance, and I think it comes from my genetic inner ear problem. My aunt in her thirties was bedridden for six months until her doctor found that it was from fluid in her inner ear. I've had little bouts of this myself. Fortunately, I was in bed and my fall was on a soft mattress when I had the worst bout. I've done yoga; didn't help. Even as a kid, I could dive, but I was never good at it. Oh, yes, I experience vection every time I sit in my car going through the automatic car wash, LOL. (Did I spell that right? Spell check says I didn't and I can't back up to find out.) Really a great article!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 15, 2021:

You’ve shared some interesting information about balance. Thank you once again for creating an informative article, Pamela. I love your first photograph.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2021:

Hi Alyssa,

I think balancing with yoga is very healthy, and you can probably improve your everyday life.

It seems there are many diseases for any disorder. I didn't know about men cutting off their toes until I did my research.

I am glad you liked the article. I appreciate your comments, as always. I hope you have a great week!

Alyssa from Ohio on March 15, 2021:

Another fascinating article my friend! I love a good balance posture in yoga, but the concept of balance for every day life stuff continues to elude me. haha! I knew about the importance of the inner ear, but I was surprised to learn how many diseases and other complications can cause balance issues. I had a chuckle at the men cutting off their toes to get out of the draft.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2021:

Hi Flourish,

I wonder if your symptoms are associated with your migraines. I hope the audiologist helped you.

I am glad this article was helpful. I appreciate your comments.ave a good week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2021:

Hi Linda,

Having a below average blood pressure certainly cause the symptoms you descibe.

Thank you for your comments. Have a good week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2021:

Hi Manatita,

You seem to have gotten more out of my article than some others, which is not surprising.

We can't do much about age, except stay as healthy as possible. You make some good comments about the Buddha.

I am glad you enjoyed the article, and I appreciate your comments. Blessings.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 15, 2021:

This was a helpful article. I have balance and dizziness issues as well as migraines. I’ve been to an audiologist who specializes in neurovestibular issues.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 15, 2021:

Pamela, this was an interesting article and something I can certainly relate to. I tend to have low blood pressure (90/60) and find if I change position too quickly (from kneeling in the garden to standing or from sitting to standing) the world spins and I'm grabbing for something to hold onto.

manatita44 from london on March 15, 2021:

I like the way you weaved that one.

A most creative piece! Reminded me of Ann Carr in the beginning and her great sense of wordplay. Yet you looked at physiology excellently.

Age itself is a problem too and even balancing the spiritual life. The old christian monks were very austere. Even the Buddha until he found the middle path. Excellent article!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2021:

Hi Peggy,

I learned some new terminology when I was doing the research, at least the meaning of a few words. My balance is not as good as it once was either. I think sitting for a few minutes in the morning is a very good suggestions.

I appreciate your comments, Peggy. Have a great week!

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on March 15, 2021:

Pamela, great informative article. I was lucky after my stroke to only lose use if one arm so I was fortunate. Your article was detailed and easy to follow. Thanks so much.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 15, 2021:

I learned some new terminology by reading this article. As I age, I notice my balance is not what it used to be when I was younger. When an older person first gets out of bed, they should sit a short time before rising to avoid falls. Doing some balance exercises is a good thing to do.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2021:

Hi Brenda,

I am sorry to hear about your medical problems. A tumor is never good even if it is not cancerous. It sounds like you have had a difficult time.

I have read about the gamma knife surgery, and I am glad that worked for you. I ended up in a wheelchair about 9 or 10 months ago, but I fo have physical therapy working with me now. So, I am getting stronger.

I am glad you found this article informative. Thank you so much for your generous comments. Blessings to you!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on March 15, 2021:


This is one article I can relate with a little bit too much.

Who ever thought one's inner ear could cause so many problems.

I have a non-cancerous brain tumor which extends into my right auditory canal.

I often walk like a drunken sailor..especially if I'm not paying attention.

I had to take Vestibular therapy twice to teach myself tricks on how to walk a straight line or attempt to manage it.

I actually passed out once and had to learn how to walk again. I used a walker for awhile, but thankfully now I am fine.

I also used to get that tumbling sensation when I layed down, but I haven't had that one since I had gamma knife surgery to reduce/ stop my tumor from growing.

This is a great article & very informative.

Great job!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2021:

Hi Misbah,

I am just the opposite from you as I drink water all the time. We are all dfferent. Tea is a healthy choice to drink, and I think that probably makes up for the lack of water.

I am glad you found this article informative. Thank you so much for your kind comments. Blessings for you.

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on March 15, 2021:

This is a very well shared article, Pamela

I don't take a good intake of water and have a low-water weight in my body. I don't feel enough thirsty and I sweat very little. Sometimes I feel like, do I really have sweat glands?

I don't feel thirsty a lot, maybe because of a high intake of tea

I am a tea lover and take usually 8–10 mugs a day

I know this is not a good sign, but I can't help myself with this

Thanks for sharing this informative article


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2021:

Hi Ms Dora,

I know vection and maybe some of the other terms can be confusing. I tried to explain them but it was not easy.

I appreciate your comments. Have a wonderful week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2021:

Hi Devika,

I am glad you found this article to be informative. Thank you so much for your comments. Have a wonderful week.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 15, 2021:

Pamela, I certainly appreciate this article. That "vection" thing is so confusing. Thanks for all the explanations.This is good education.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 15, 2021:

Hi Pamela I see this clearly now and have noticed this in older people. I watched the video and know exactly what to do. All are explained well about Balance facts.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

You are right about the importance of early treatment. I am glad you found this article to be informative. I appreciate your comments.