Does Yoga Improve Balance For Those With Chronic Brain Injury?

May 14, 2024
Does Yoga Improve Balance For Those With Chronic Brain Injury?

Yoga may improve balance and mobility for those with chronic brain injury

Research Study At A Glance

The Research Question Asked

Can yoga improve balance for those with chronic brain injury?

Type of Study

Preliminary clinical trial with repeated measures design

Study Participants (Sample)

Total sample included 7 participants

  • Mean age was 56.4 years
  • 4 Female; 3 Male
  • All experienced chronic brain injury and reported balance issues
  • None practiced yoga within the last year

Methods

Using multiple assessment scales, researchers measured the effects of yoga on balance, mobility, and pain, at baseline, after eight weeks of no treatment (control period), and after eight weeks of yoga classes.

Results

After eight weeks of yoga classes, researchers measured improved performance of daily tasks, mobility, and occupational performance.

Conclusion

Preliminary research suggests yoga can improve balance for those with chronic brain injury.

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Background

Traumatic brain injuries are widespread among adults as many common situations can result in permanent brain injury. The category of traumatic brain injuries specifically refers to injuries caused by external trauma, such as car accidents or sports injuries. These kinds of injuries can cause permanent damage to the brain with lasting effects.

One area where those experiencing the chronic effects of brain injury may struggle is with balance. While physical therapy can help these patients regain better balance, it has drawbacks. Long-term physical therapy is costly. Additionally, it often requires a doctor’s prescription and travel to a therapist’s office.

Yoga may be a helpful adjunct therapy for long-term functional movement issues like balance. Yoga has already been shown to help with improving balance in other populations. Additionally, it is something patients can do at home or in lower-cost group classes. Yoga is also a good modality for connecting the mind and body through the nervous system, which could be especially helpful in a condition like chronic brain injury. The researchers on this study designed a preliminary experiment to explore this question.

Research question

Can yoga improve balance for those with chronic brain injury?

Research methods

Seven adults with an average age of 56.4 years participated in this preliminary study. All participants experienced chronic brain injury, but had completed doctor-recommended rehabilitation therapies. Additionally, the study participants all reported that they struggled with balance. They had not done any yoga practice within the last year.

Participants in the study first completed an eight-week “control period” where they did no yoga. They then participated in group yoga classes twice a week for the next eight weeks. Each class was one hour long. The classes included postures, breathing practices, affirmations, meditation, and relaxation.

The researchers assessed the effects of yoga on balance, mobility, and pain at three time points during the 16-week study. They assessed participants at the beginning of the study (baseline), after eight weeks of no treatment (control period), and after eight weeks of yoga classes. The researchers used several different scales for their assessments. They assessed static and dynamic balance with the Berg Balance Scale, balance confidence with the Activities Balance Confidence scale, and mobility with the 6-minute walk test. They used the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure to assess participants’ perceptions of their ability to complete daily tasks. Finally, they used the Brief Pain Inventory short form to assess pain levels and whether pain interfered with participants’ daily lives.

Results

After eight weeks of yoga classes, researchers measured:

  • Improved performance of daily tasks
  • Increased mobility
  • Improved occupational performance

There was no effect of yoga on balance confidence or pain.

Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?

Our ability to balance and do other kinds of functional movements is often key to how we interact with the world. Limitations on our functional movement or a lack of confidence that we can do particular types of movement can limit the activities we choose to do. Whether or not we experience chronic brain injury, our yoga practice can support basic functional mobility in our lives. Having practices like yoga that keep us moving can be all the more important when we have a significant challenge to doing daily tasks, like chronic brain injury.

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Conclusion

Those who experience chronic brain injury can find balance and other functional movements challenging. Preliminary research suggests yoga may improve balance and mobility for these patients.

Reference citation

Stephens, J.A., M. Van Puymbroeck, P.L. Sample. A.A. Schmid. 2020. Yoga improves balance, mobility, and perceived occupational performance in adults with chronic brain injury: A preliminary investigation. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 40:101172. 6pgs.