Did you know… there may be a link between your child’s core control and their level of anxiety? When we learned about this link, it just about blew our socks off… and then we quickly put them back on because it made so much sense to us! 

People are always saying that core control and strength is SOOO important for kids and adults to move efficiently and to support our bodies. This is true and when someone has difficulties keeping their bodies stable and centered in one place for a bit of time, it is often related to their core strength or core control. This we usually expand beyond the idea of the core alone and relate this difficulty controlling the body to the term “postural control”. If you read our blog on a regular basis, you know that we talk about postural control ALL THE TIME! We talk about it so much because it is so important to everyday life and our ability to move through it with ease. If we can’t control our bodies in a still state, hold our bodies in an aligned posture, and activate our core in the right way, performing higher level tasks is HARD! If your child is focusing SO much on maintaining control of their body, any tricky coordination or tricky mind components of the task may be a very big ask and that specific task may be very hard for them to do.

We see this and recognize this in many of the kiddos we treat, which is why we are always mindful of adjusting a task to meet them where they are at that given point in time. Although we are always thinking in this way, what we hadn’t necessarily thought about was how difficulty with postural control and core activation may be linked with emotions, specifically elevated levels of anxiety.

HOW you ask? In a study performed comparing the balance and postural reactions of children with anxiety to children without anxiety, it was found that during simple balance tasks, children with anxiety exhibited greater postural sway with less variety when compared to children without anxiety. The differences between the two groups grew larger as the balance tasks became more challenging. The researchers concluded that the pattern of postural sway they saw suggested that decreased stability during balance tasks causes the task to demand more attention. This, they felt, may explain the link between decreased balance and higher levels of anxiety in children.

SO, if your child has more trouble controlling their posture at baseline, they may be devoting more attention to postural control at all times. When they send more attention to their body in that way, it takes up cognitive power that they need to complete hard school tasks or that they need for harder motor tasks… AND life demands them to do these higher level tasks ALL THE TIME. This has the potential to increase their anxiety and overall frustration when asked to do these challenging things. As is stated above, researchers predict that this may be why these two things are linked, because the mind is being forced to devote attention to SO MANY hard things all at the same time, and that shifting attention in this way is STRESSFUL. This is especially so because as children shift some of the attention they are giving to maintain their  postural control away from the body and toward another task, they may start to lose their balance, forcing the brain to give that attention back AND then they complete the big task in a slightly haphazard way. 

If your child has trouble with balance, they may benefit from physical therapy. We look at each child as a whole being and consider more than just the basics of balance and strength, because we as human beings are so much more than just these things! If you are curious about physical therapy for your child and want to test the waters, come in for a free Discovery Visit to see if we are the right fit for you, your family, and your child. Don’t worry, there are so many things in life that make us stressed and nervous but we have your back and we are here for you! Breathe in and out , everything is going to be okay!

Resources:

https://behavioralandbrainfunctions.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1744-9081-5-42?fbclid=IwAR3HNmXlyiwQSHMpyudJy0_i-IMCPkPlp6bWFzlL0eIB5n92I3st-kxcSWM#Sec19

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