Occupational Therapy Glossary

Balance reaction or protective reaction

When balance is lost, this is an automatic response to use arms to stabilize body. Protective responses are similar and is the use of outstretched arms when falling forward.

Equilibrium reactions are those highly integrated complex automatic responses to changes in posture and movement aimed towards restoring balance. Tilting reactions are much the same but are elicited on a moving surface. In more simple terms, when one is "balanced" (speaking physically) one can move around as well as on and off of moving objects (e.g. escalators) without falling down.

The balance system is one that controls movement during a variety of activities (rolling, sitting, standing, walking, hopping, skipping, cycling, running, jumping, rock climbing, gymnastics, etc.). While integrating a variety of sensory information (from the joints, eyes, skin, muscles, etc.) good balance not only requires the input of normal sensory information, but also good muscle response (including intrinsic muscles).

Both sensory and motor information is carefully evaluated when determining what equipment is to be used. Some individuals may need a variety of balance stimulation. Aside from balance boards and balance beams, therapy balls and air mattressess can serve as wonderful tools to encourage balance and coordination.

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