Help with regaining balance after head injury - Headway


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Help with regaining balance after head injury

wayne-c profile image

I want to share some of the method's i used to help improve my balance after a head injury. I was discharged from hospital with very little balance, and first of all i would crawl on all four's in the hallway forward's and then backward's all the time concentrating on my balance.After a little while doing this i would stand at the bottom of the stair's where i could hold onto the rail gradually being able to let go for longer,after a short while doing this i began to walk on elbow crutch'es. At first i was only able to take two step's at a time between the end of the bed and the wall and then do a controlled fall backward's onto the bed, as turning around was'nt possible.When i felt confident enough with this i started to walk from room to room, wearing a motor cycle helmet as i would have the occaisional fall.

When i felt i could do that ok i began to walk on the green outside, and wal kng on the grass was a huge help. The green was some 30 metre's square, and after six month's or so doing this i could walk around the green five time's 2 or 3 time's a day. A path soon wore into the grass and looking back i should have changed my route and walked over every part of the green, as i got confident on the same path and confidence play's a large part in regaining your balance.

I would like a factsheet to be made up to help anyone with balace problem's following a head injury, as a lot of the finer point's you need to work out for yourself. Any one who's had a similar experience i would love to hear about the technique's they used and what worked for them. Wayne

20 Replies

balance was a real sticking stone for me, an exercise given to me by my neuro physio was to walk while turning my head from left to right. Took a long time before I could manage it without my stick or falling over, but it worked

like you I became very friendly with the floor. Not one to do as I was told I climbed a step ladder in the garden to unblock a gutter...feel off and lay for ages flat on my back laughing thinking to myself what a stupid thing to do. My dog was more worried than I was. Fortunately I did not damage myself

Oh yes, I fell quite a few times that required trips to A&E and very spectacular one down the stairs!

Our ability to balance is a combination of what messages our eyes and ears send to our brain and it processes them. Naturally, when one or more of these gets damaged (even by a little a bit) our balance goes off sometimes quite spectacularly. Quite often physical injuries to the back or knees will also contribute to balance issues.

Some balance issues can be very subtle, it was only when my knee surgeon passed a casual comment that because I lean forward, it doesn't help my knee. He noticed my puzzled look and showed me in the mirror - I had a pronounced lean to the front and left. When I asked my neurologist there was a note on my file about a "mid line shift" problem that I hadn't been passed on to me - or I had forgotten

As Wayne-c points out there is a long and sometimes frustrating route to getting our balance back and it can take a lot of effort and persistence - well done Wayne for sticking with it.

Matt2584 profile image
Matt2584 in reply to sospan


I've only just read this post and yes sight and hearing plays a role when it comes to balance but even more so would be the part of your brain that controls balance, the cerabellum.

I have had 2 brain tumours, both in different years. First in 1996 and second in 98.

I had radiotherapy on my second tumour. The idea was to zap the tumour until it shrunk and disappeared. I had regular scans at the time to check that the radiotherapy was working. Scans were showing that the tumour was throbbing or pulsing. Shrinking one minute and expanding the next. It was also at this stage that my walking balance was very very bad and it took my parents to hold me upright as I had no strength in my legs. Doctors were saying that the swelling tumour was pressing against my cerabellum causing damage and this was why my balance was very very bad back then.

I've had further operations down the line and my balance is a lot better than back then, much stronger now as I can walk on my own but with the aid of a stick but the balance is still not right.

sospan profile image
sospan in reply to Matt2584

Sounds like you had a real tough time of it.

My balance improved a lot after having the Epley manoeuvre. However, with several other injuries , my balance, walking, even standing up on times was going to be a challenge.

What I have found is if I am mentally tired through concentrating, my balance deteriorates a lot.

Matt2584 profile image
Matt2584 in reply to sospan

It's been murder. I've had a total, so far, of 11 ops on my head and I hope to have no more. I have pretty much been through hell and back.

I volunteer for my Headway on Friday mornings. I've been with Headway Portsmouth for 10 years now. In the earlier days of Headway my balance wasn't too bad... Indoors that is. There were a few years where there wasn't much in the ways of staff and volunteers were the ones running he show including me. I used to walk around from room to room quite easily.

Nowadays is different though. I feel like my balance has got worse. I am a bit more unsteady on my feet. Some of it could be down to getting older and I started to use a walking stick now. Thankfully our Headway now has a manager who is 'on-the-ball' and so I now have more support with my volunteering. I don't have to go from room to room so much now which is good cos as I said before, my balance has got worse, it's much more slower, my muscles can feel tighter at times. I need to do more exercises on my legs really.

sospan profile image
sospan in reply to Matt2584

It is good you have a routine and feel appreciated and in a supportive environment.

What I was told many years ago and has now come true for me, is that the slightest imbalance puts extra load on other parts of the body. For years I struggled with knee problems and now this has made problems for my hips. My Doctor has warned me that my back will be next.

So please do the extra exercises, the more you do the longer you can keep active

Tiredness is the main issue with me, probably due to where I grew up, etc my balance was very good, in fact if it’s light and I’m fully charged it still is, but once I’m tired and/or it’s dark I do start to miss my footing and generally walk like a zombie!

In the early stages post injury after about 30 mins of concentration my speech and balance would go. Then after a break where I would normally fall asleep for a minute or so, I would be fine again.

I could never get an answer as to what chemical in the body was running when I got tired or what was restored when I had a nap.

If the chemical was known then possibly a supplement could be taken to boost our system.

ah no for me no quick charge seems to work once I've reached that point its a noticeable sign that I've overstretched it, and that it will take my systems a day or more to be back to nominal.

Hi Wayne

Firstly, nice one on your positive progression. I have had balance issues for the last 7 years and have seen many neuro physios and the exercises they have given me have involved eye exercises and other vestibular exercises. Brain and Spine foundation have a fact sheet on Vestibular exercises or just a google ought to do it. You can do the exercises that most help you. I find the eye exercises very helpful and it may be an idea to have a one-one session with a pilates instructor. They do say that core strength improves balance issues.

All the best


The way i understand my injury is the part of my brain which is in charge of the balance is to badly damaged to work again, and another part of the brain which control's something else can be learned to take charge of the balance. So it will never be as good as it was but with hard work and determination you can walk again,remember Micheal Watson the champian boxer he fought Chris Eubank and had a serious head injury, which affected his balance much the same as mine was.He wrote a book called (My Biggest Fight) and for anyone learning to balance again it really is a must read, at the end of the book he walk's the London Marathon. Persistance play's a large part in recovery even the small two minute job's like standing up to brush your teeth or comb your hair might not seem worth bothering with, but if they're done every time you can they will improve your balance. Keep the post's coming, i'm sure if everyone share's their experience we can put something together to help other's.


Matt2584 profile image
Matt2584 in reply to wayne-c


Sight and hearing do have a role when it comes to balance but even more so would be the part of the brain that controls, or like you say, is in charge of balance. That part is the cerabellum. Mine has been damaged and I did have very very bad balance at one stage of my life.

Keeping an eye on an upright object like a lamp post helps with my balance and stops me wandering from side to side on pavements bumping into people. A window frame, filing cabinet will do indoors. I did a Age UK mat based Pilates class for a while had a real problem stretching opposite arm and leg etc. It helped. Also the instructor showed us a safe way of getting up.

Between the lot of us we should get a book together with all the problem areas and the things that help so it was easy access.

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Hi Wayne Interesting to hear your story. I fall about on flat surfaces leaving me stuck with black eyes & broken teeth!!

I have found pilates exercise really hjelpful as you can do it sitting on the floor leaning on something if you need. It works muscles with very small movements on each side of your body &and helps your core strength & stability. My physio has a full pilates stem which is really good fun whilst you're building up strength. Don't laugh at my next experience - basic ballet excersises really help - you are holding on to something - no turning,jumping or spinning at this level plus it is all done on flat feet, no using tip toes or anything that It works on posture & core strength and working both sides of your body. I love ballet so I really love the feel of the excersises. I have had a few wobbles so I do it on carpet just in case. Don't be put off by being a man (sorry if I'm being sexist, no offence intended!) There are a lot of good books for beginners, again don't be put off if they are for children. they have the best bodies for beginners. Also good DVDs too.

Good luck!

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just lost my reply, so here goes again !

hi Wayne et al, very interesting to see your replies. I had an ICH & my balance has been pretty rubbish ever since. I fall over on flat surfaces & end up with black eyes & broken teeth - not a good look. Stairs are still to be avoided at all costs, I will walk miles to avoid them if I have to. Luckily I live in a ground floor flat.

I have found pilates excersise very helpful as you can do it sitting on the floor leaning against something if you need too. As it works the musckes in very small movements on both sides of your body it also helps with core strength & stability. My physio has a full pilates machine, really helps & is fun too.

I also find beginners ballet very help - the classes aimed at very small chidren - there are no jumps, spins etc & it's all done with flat feet no tip toes etc. There are really good books & DVDs. Again it works both isdes of the body & posture plus you're hanging onto something whilst you're doing it!. I do do it on carpet though in case i have a wobbly.

Good luck

In most of the post's i see clear vision and various technique's with your eye's are a big help, it's the same with me if i stand up and standing still if i close my eye's. I immediatly start to fall, and walking with the crutch'es in the dark is'nt safe at all.

It seem's the more i read about different people's experience's and the different technique's used to help regain your balance,what a complex thing balance is and how many different thing's are involved in it's make up. Our eye's have a very important part to play.


Kirk5w7 profile image
Kirk5w7 in reply to wayne-c

Hi, just commenting on the eyes bit, my night vision is much reduced, I also need lots of light in the house, I don't have problems walking, or if I'm being driven with the sun in my eyes, where it would make me squint before its ok now. I was also told my reduced peripheral vision would affect my balance cos I don't have a total view of everything round me, I have to turn my head to see clearly, very peculiar sensation.


sospan profile image
sospan in reply to Kirk5w7

interesting about the sun not making you squint, a lot of people find bright lights intolerable.

In a really dark room, is it just your balance or does your balance go as well?

Kirk5w7 profile image
Kirk5w7 in reply to sospan

In a really dark room, I can't see any detail at all, so I avoid that cos I just can't see and need to hold onto anything to keep me stable, the first thing I do when entering a room is put the light on and I can tell instantly if a bulb has blown at home before looking at the light fitting, I know it drives my husband mad cos I'm always leaving lights on but he never says anything, I have a lamp next to my bedside with a daylight bulb in it and one next to where I sit on the sofa with direction able lights on it so I can spot light what I'm doing if I need it. Funny as well if I'm really tired or overloaded with stimuli, my eyesight tends to dim, it's like my brain starts to close it down cos its concentrating on other things, very interesting really xxxxx

sospan profile image
sospan in reply to Kirk5w7

Indeed, the whole head injury thing is completely baffling. I can't stand bright lights so I had the room quite gloomy. If I my wife goes to bed before me I naturally don't put the light on - but in the limited light, my balance and sense of distance goes to pot!

Mother nature has some strange quirks when it comes to head injury

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