It may be your eyes:
Are You Clumsy Because of Your Eyes?

Are You Clumsy Because of Your Eyes?

Are you always bumping into those you are walking next to or running into walls and furniture? Your friends and family might tease you about it, but chronic clumsiness is no joke. The occasional clumsy moment is harmless but doesn't always stop there. For some people, it's more than just a scraped knee or a cup slipping through clumsy fingers. If you've ever wondered whether your clumsy nature signals something more serious, this article will help you figure it out.

How Clumsy is Too Clumsy?

There are varying degrees of clumsiness, and it's not always easy to tell when it becomes a problem. In general, the red flags are:
  • When your obvious clumsy stumbles gets in the way of your job, home life, or other day-to-day activities
  • If you're at risk of hurting yourself or others
It's ultimately up to you whether your clumsy nature is an issue. If you feel like it is, take heart — there are steps you can take to improve your situation.

How to Stop Being Clumsy

There's no cure for clumsiness, but many people can become less clumsy by training their bodies and brains. Start with these four strategies.

Tip #1: Try Strength Training

Strength training reduces clumsiness in multiple ways. It builds muscular control and power, putting you back in charge of your body. The stronger you are, the easier it will be to recover when you trip or to avoid a collision.  Strength training also improves proprioception, which is your body's awareness of itself in space. Many people are clumsy because of poor proprioception. If that's the case for you, strength training might decrease your clumsiness. Either way, strength training is good for your health. Among other benefits, it can:
  • Boost your metabolism
  • Lower your risk of falls
  • Prevent injuries
  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Boost your body image and self-confidence
  • Increase your mobility
If you've never done strength work before, consult with a personal trainer or medical professional, especially if you have health concerns that impact your ability to exercise. Most people will start with basic bodyweight exercises — pushups, squats, and so on — before moving on to external weights.

Tip #2: Try Balance Training

Your sense of balance lets you stand, sit, walk, run, and do everything else you need to do. It's such a fundamental part of life that it's easy to forget the process is complicated. Your brain coordinates input from your eyes, inner ears, and proprioceptive system to keep you balanced. It processes all that information and figures out what your body needs to do before sending instructions to your muscles. Your muscle response determines whether you stay up or fall. Poor balance contributes to many people's clumsiness, but balance systems are trainable. The more you challenge your body and brain to work together and keep you steady, the better your balance will be. Balance training teaches your body parts to work together and avoid stumbles and falls. It strengthens your ankles, knees, hips, and core, making those muscles more responsive to signals that say, "Don't fall!". It also trains your brain and improves reaction time, so your body can act before something happens. Balance training also helps to improve your proprioception by increasing awareness of your body in space. As your proprioceptive system gets stronger, your clumsiness may decrease.

Tip #3: Try Flexibility Training

When people hear "flexibility," they usually think of a dancer doing the splits or a gymnast bending backward. But flexibility impacts everyone in every aspect of their lives, and it's a key ingredient in becoming less clumsy. The more flexible you are, the easier it is to recover from a trip or stumble. Flexibility also makes those stumbles less frequent by helping you navigate complex and uneven terrain — even if the "terrain" is just a loose floorboard. Your flexibility depends on how well your joints use their range of motion. You get more movement when you have more elasticity and length in the soft tissues — the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. For example, most people have the back and hip mobility to bend forward and reach toward their toes. Maybe you can only touch your knees or mid-shins on your first try. But if you work on stretching the muscles of your lower back and thighs, you'll get closer to touching your toes. You don't need to be able to do the splits or pull your leg above your head, but it's always possible to improve your mobility. The key is to know your baseline and, by continually stretching, make ongoing improvements to the elasticity of your muscles and other soft tissues. Talk to a trainer or medical professional if it's your first time doing stretching exercises.

Tip #4: Practice Hand-Eye Coordination

Some people's clumsiness shows up as poor eye-hand coordination. If you're the kind of person who drops their morning coffee and cringes when someone tosses them a set of keys, you understand. Most people can improve their hand-eye coordination. The first step is to increase your overall level of physical activity. Exercise helps deliver oxygen to the brain and muscles, and oxygenated tissues work better. Many activities help to improve your hand-eye coordination, so it's easy to find something that works for you. Sports like baseball and tennis are great for improving hand-eye coordination. Not a "throw the ball" kind of person? No problem. Low-impact solo activities like tai chi and swimming are also proven to make you more coordinated. You can also improve hand-eye coordination by playing a video game, putting together a Lego kit, or learning to juggle. Anything that makes your hands and brain work together will do the trick.

If You Don't See Improvement

If none of these tips help, your clumsiness might be the symptom of a more serious condition. You might be clumsy because your eyes don't function as they should Your vision is instrumental in how you see the world and navigate space. Many vision problems affect depth perception and balance, making you appear clumsy.

Clumsiness and Binocular Vision Dysfunction

If you have tried to improve your clumsiness through physical methods and nothing seems to work then it's time to get to the root of the issue. Your clumsiness may be the result of other medical issues like binocular vision dysfunction (BVD). Many people with BVD are unusually clumsy — it's one of the most common symptoms. 

Binocular Vision Dysfunction Explained

Binocular vision dysfunction (BVD) develops due to minor misalignment of the eyes.  The misalignment is too tiny for a routine eye exam to detect, but it still affects how you see the world.  When you have BVD, your brain tries to correct the misalignment by using  the eye muscles to force the eyes into position, leading to muscle overuse and strain, which drive the symptoms of BVD. This can lead to your loss of balance and issues with physical coordination. 

Symptoms of Binocular Vision Dysfunction

BVD causes a variety of problems, and you might not associate all of them with your vision. Common symptoms include:
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Motion sickness
  • Blurry, shadowed, or double vision
  • Poor depth perception
  • Loss of Coordination
  • Unsteadiness on your feet
  • Difficulty reading
  • Closing one eye when looking at something up close
If you struggle with some to all of these symptoms, BVD treatment could help with your clumsiness.

Vision Specialists Can Help

At Vision Specialists of Michigan, we've treated patients with BVD for over to 20 years. Our founder, Dr. Debby Feinberg, is f the founder of NeuroVisual Medicine, a subspecialty for neurological symptoms rooted in eye problems. To find out if we can help you be less clumsy, take our online questionnaire or contact us to schedule an appointment. Our specialized diagnosis and treatment program offers hope to those suffering from BVD.

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