Is Your Body Equally Balanced? Test Yourself.
The steep decline down to Lewiston Lake leveled off at the water’s edge. At the farther end of the California campground, it was less forgiving, and there was no ‘leveling off.’ Instead, overlooking the large dam, a long precipice down offered a clear warning of danger. The crag was inviting no one to a nice walk, let alone entrance to their water sport.
While camping at the more-accessible portion, I noticed two people with severe disruptions to their biomechanics. One was in a wheelchair near the camp-host site. The other, arriving as we were leaving, had a conspicuous limp as he and his friend maneuvered the portage of a kayak down the rocky trail to the lake.
Having recently done the same, and experiencing the unstable footings in the area, I mentally closed my eyes not wanting to see any disaster. I felt a bit guilty to drive away, but wouldn’t want to be insulting by offering help either. He was accustomed to his body, I was sure.
Small Imbalances Add Up
These two cases were extreme, but many of us suffer (even if we don’t realize it) from unequal bodily-balance. One side of our body is often doing more work than the other. Over time this inequity builds up and causes greater problems. Rather like a society that wakes up to the fact that inequalities of populations can perpetuate a less-gratifying life for all.
Despite your good posture or the feeling that nothing is wrong, it could be wrong nevertheless. Our bodies learn to compensate for imbalances by avenues we didn’t intend to travel.
A person’s emotional state may be seen as the projection
of his or her structural imbalances.
— Ida Rolf, Ph.D.
Poorly balanced weight distributions within the body can initiate many common difficulties. Seemingly unrelated, these ailments can include headaches, back pain, tiredness, shoulder or neck soreness, general tension, female disorders, digestive sluggishness and leg or foot pain.
While the balance test is based primarily upon comparative weights when standing, it is important to note that similar damaging distortion is present when sitting down, although somewhat minimized. Thus, we can’t simply decide to sit on our butt all the time as a good solution. I know none of you would.
Can Small Differences Matter Much?
The disadvantages can be numerus. Yet, what if the imbalance is truly slight? Before I proceed to the steps that lay out the test directions for you, I want us to consider the possible implications.
Here’s an example of the outcome for a typical person. She has someone read her findings and it appears she is (only) 4 lbs. heavier on the left side. [This is not unusual and I remember having patients with distribution differences of more than 20-25 pounds.] Testing the number of walking steps in her normal gait, the result is 80 steps per minute. This is actually rather slow, but can account for times when we walk-stand-walk-stand during activities such as shopping, water cooler jaunts or pausing to admire what neighbors did with a nearby house.
Results for this fictional woman (just as an example):
4 lbs. heavier on the left side
x 80 steps
= 320 lbs. per minute more on the left side
x 60 minutes an hour
= 19,200 lbs. per hour more on the left side
x 6 hours a day (total average) on our feet
= 115,200 lbs. more per day on the left side
Whoa. Trust you said “whoa” also.
If asked to move 115,200 lbs. of anything, you would instinctively know it to be an arduous effort. Conducting your own test (as described below) can be motivating and inspire you forward to improve your biomechanics.
What Can You Do with the Information?
As self-serving as I can possibly be, while also serving you, I’ll suggest using my app – PizzazzEE-25. (Find it here: PizzazzEE-25.) It concentrates on balance, while improving flexibly and stamina. You can use it at no cost; it can be done at home and at your own pace, with benefits noticed right away, and which amass quickly using it just once a week.
Professional services like Rolfing, Egoscue and other neuromuscular-skeletal methods consider balance a vital issue. Qualified yoga instructors often do the same. Likewise, with Somatics.
Test your Own Weight Balance
The most difficult thing about this test is that you might want to borrow another scale from a friend, assuming you don’t have two. Or, you can adjust your one scale as I explain below. This self-test was originally adapted in 120 Years and Holding (now out-of-print), from the Parker Chiropractic Resource foundation brochure “Is your Body Equally Balanced?”.
Before you start, place two ordinary bathroom scales side by side, so that you can stand on both at the same time. It is advisable to have someone else read the comparative weights for you, since body weight may vary when you lean forward to look downward. (There’s also the chance you might subconsciously cheat to produce equal numbers.)
If there is no one to help you read scale measurements, second best is to use a cell phone. Hold it with both hands, arms straight down and when centered and still, click a picture. You may have to check you focus and placement before continuing. Some doctors may have bilateral scales available for you, but if you are very careful, your results will be similarly accurate.
Before stepping on the scales, put little markers where you should place your feet.
Using one scale only. If you choose this method, make certain foot heights are identical. Put one scale down, and next to it use a stable pile of books or newspapers, wide enough to easily stand upon. Make certain the stack is exactly level with the scale. Take the reading as described above, but first with left foot on the scale, and secondly with the right. Keeping your weigh centered down the middle of your body is especially important if you use this method.
- Step up with one foot on each scale. Stand very still. Center your weight right in the middle of your body. Keep head up. Note readings.
- Calculate results by recording _______________ number of pounds heavier on the _______________ (right or left) side of your body than on the other side.
- Time yourself walking for 1 minute. Count how many steps you take in 1 minute. It is best if you count and a friend times it, or you use a stopwatch. Record the number of steps per minute _____________.
You may own a gadget that records your daily steps, which may help with your 1-minute time-frame assessment.
- Multiply the two numbers above, place result on this line ____________. You are carrying that many more pounds on the ____________ side (same as listed above) per minute.
- Now multiply that number by 60, place new number here ______________. Since there are 60 minutes in an hour you will carry that many more pounds per hour on __________ side.
- Multiply that number by 6, place answer on this line _________________________.
An average of 6 hours (total) is spent walking or standing on your feet during a normal day.
[Although the average is actually considered to be 7 – 8 hours per day and the original test used 8, I am using 6 for the sake of argument. Many people seem to think that 8 is too large a number. Even using the number ‘6’, the results are astonishing.]
- The above number (result from step #6) _______________________ represents that many more pounds carried on the ____________ side than on the other side EACH day.
There are many variables unaccounted for in this test and some that can change frequently; however, it represents the type of accumulation problems that poor biomechanics or posture can typically cause. Our body mechanic concerns are ubiquitous and are worthy of our notice and effort to improve them. It’s a cost-effective way to improve our long-term health and Age with Pizzazz.