Last Year I wasn’t sure whether to go with a standing chair as my next chair or a regular chair with a seperate standing frame. I was keen to incorporate more standing into my ‘Wiihab’, but although I can pull myself to standing I can’t keep my balance just stood for any length of time. I did try the Genie chair last october and enjoyed the benefits of been able to stand for that length of time however it does fully support your body, so your brain isn’t having to do a great deal of work to help you maintain this and the chair stands you and sits you down, which I can do myself and is not a skill I want to lose.
I had asked a physio before about those special exercise bikes which move your legs for you. She had said my leg strength and the connection between brain and legs would be better maintained if I used a regular pedal exerciser and tried to do it myself however much more slower/jerky the movements are. I had been thinking more of been able to burn off much more calories if I could do the pedalling motion more fluidly and faster.
So bearing this in mind I decided to try one last thing before going for a frame that stands me and gives full support.
Last week I had one of the Sensory Balance Belts shipped from the US, in the hope that it would help me with some standing exercises, without having to buy an expensive standing frame.
The adult ones are heavy, mine has 6lbs of extra weight in the belt. The weight is meant to give your brain a better sense of where your body is in space, (proprioception) so it can adjust itself and help you to be able to keep your balance better. As Ataxia particuarly affects balance and proprioception I thought this might work for helping to be able to continue my exercises on the wii, as I was struggling to keep balance long enough to be able to complete an exercise/game.
Here’s a few pics of some games and me on the balance board. I do the ‘Tilt City’ one sitting as you have to hold the controller with both hands and I can’t let go of walker for long enough to be able to do this.
For Zazen you just have to be able to sit still!!
Standing games I use include ski slalom, bubble, and Marbles balance challenge (seperate game)
Tilt City requires you to hold the Wiimote with both hands to tilt the top platform and shift your weight from left to right to move the bottom two platforms,. the aim been to get the coloured balls into the matching coloured pipes.
I lock my arms around the front of the frame as I find it easier to keep my balance. If I keep them inside then lean left or right I tend to go too far over and the walker tips. The wrist weights steady my arms as there’s nothing underneath them for support.
The belt is heavy and the site recommends you don’t wear it for more than 30 mins so I try and have two 30 min sessions a day. For example today I used it first time when doing laundry, I find I keep my balance better when having to lean forwards to get things from basket (from sitting in chair or on rollator seat) and pegs and then up.. to hang them up.
The second session I will go on the Wii later for a 30min session. I have had it on whilst mopping the floors too, from sat on walker seat. It’s handy for those little jobs that involve standing up and down, leaning, getting out of chair to floor and back up. (sweeping under the bed and sorting bottom shelves etc) and helps me keep my balance whilst sat on the floor with nothing behind me for back support. I usually have to prop myself up against something so I can’t fall right back or sit with my legs in a ‘W shape’ (so bum is in middle and a leg out to each side to give myself a wider base).
It hasn’t really changed ‘walking’ for me much, I still need something to hold onto and my brain still seems to have some difficulty sending the signals to ‘pick up’ my feet and move them forward in equal steps, but I did seem to keep my balance better whilst I was ‘mid-step’ and wasn’t having to lock my arms as much to hold myself up until my foot had gone flat on the ground.
I’m pleased with the first few tries with it and hopefully I will be able to maintain this function and improve on some of the things after several months of daily sessions. I would like to be able to stand without having anything to hold onto for longer periods as this would be useful for transfers, and getting in and out of car seats, using bathroom in other people’s houses etc.