My name is Dr. Hannah Leatherman, and I work with Dr. Laura Wazen at Equinox Physical Therapy in Sarasota, Florida during the winter months. I am a trained vestibular therapist, which is a physical therapist who specializes in treating patients with dizziness and balance problems. Balance is very important to me, because I am also a professional athlete in the sport of disc golf. I am required to have exceptional balance to have success competing on the professional disc golf tour. The sport of disc golf is similar to golf in that you must drive, approach, and putt towards a hole. Instead of hitting a ball with a club, you are throwing a small frisbee or disc. When I throw a shot with my dominant hand, my follow through forces me to stand on my right leg while maintaining good balance.
In sports and in life, we frequently use one side of our body more than the other. It is natural to have imbalances between our left and right sides, as most of us have a dominant arm and leg. If the imbalance becomes too great, it will lead to problems. Repetitive movements, habits, postures, or even injuries and surgeries can lead to abnormal imbalances on your left and right sides. As you age this can lead to serious balance problems. You may begin noticing that you are having trouble walking a straight line, are bumping into things more than you used to, or even losing your balance and falling.
As a physical therapist who specializes in treating balance problems, I have come to understand the importance of using both sides of my body when I am training in order to improve symmetry in my body. Part of my offseason training involves throwing with my non-dominant hand, which allows my left leg to balance me during the same movements I am constantly using for disc golf on my right leg. Strengthening and balance training of my left leg and core are also key elements to my program.
At Equinox Physical Therapy one of the things that we screen for is asymmetry. In addition to other tests, we analyze our patient’s walking pattern and posture, and assess their strength in both legs in order to find out if asymmetry of the body could be contributing to the patient feeling off balance. This allows us to educate our patient regarding these results as well as treatments which will create improved symmetry in the body, improved balance, and decrease risk for falls.
Whether you have been involved with sports, have had an injury or surgery on one side that has thrown off your balance, or just think that you might have asymmetry from any other activities that you have been doing for years, I encourage you to find a trained vestibular therapist and get evaluated. You might be surprised what they will find. Your body will thank you!
Image from PDGA Disc Golf