|Your Sixth Sense: Good Balance
USA Weekend Magazine, March 16, 2008
by Susan Lennon
Did you know that some medical professionals call balance our "sixth sense"? "Balance is a truer 'sense' because it's intangible," says Gaye Cronin, an occupational therapy expert at the Atlanta Ear Clinic who directs rehabilitation of patients with balance problems. "When we close our eyes, we must 'sense' where we are in space," she says. Balance "allows us to stay upright and not fall over."
When balance fails
Movement receptors in the inner ear tell the brain whether we're upright, falling or upside down. When this "vestibular system" goes out of whack, "people suffer greatly," Cronin says. "It's a silent illness people don't talk about."
Whether constant or come-and-go, such attacks cause lightheadedness, vertigo (a feeling of unsteadiness or spinning), motion sickness, imbalance or nausea. This can impair work, driving and the care of loved ones, and lead to major injury. An estimated 90 million adult Americans have had dizziness or balance problems.
Problems are usually treatable
Cronin advises seeing a doctor if you have bouts of unexplained dizziness, vertigo or falls and stumbles. Visit www.vestibular.org for more information and to find a support group.