How does the Balance Mat work?

By Published On: 20/06/2023
Multimetric Balance Mat from Balance Metrix

People often ask me how the Balance Mat works. I have jotted down a few words to answer the most frequently asked questions.

The Balance Mat measures the postural sway of a person standing on the mat in certain stances: normal, tandem, left foot, right foot. These stances are clearly marked by footprints identifying where the person being tested is required to stand.

Balance Mat – 14 data points per footprint

Within the mat substrate a single plastic optical fibre is woven in a crossing grid pattern in such a way that there are 14 crossover points in the substrate beneath each footprint, and therefore a total of 28 crossover points beneath a person standing with both feet on the mat. As movement on the mat surface increases, each of the 28 crossover points contributes to ‘measuring’ the cumulative movement (or postural sway) of the person standing on the mat.

A single sensor in the Balance Mat

A single sensor in the corner of the mat sends light through the fibre and then receives the light once it has passed through the fibre mesh. The sensor sends 40 pulses of light per second (40 Hertz) through the fibre mesh equating to 800 light pulses during a 20 second test. These 800 pulses are received by the sensor as data points and transmitted to the computer to create a signal shown as a graph.

No movement – a flatline graph

When there is no movement on the mat surface all these data points are zero, producing a flat line graph. As movement on the mat surface increases the data points increase in value, producing increasingly large waves and spikes in the graph.

Balance measurement results graph on computer screen
Right foot stance on Multimetric - Balance Metrix

How the score is derived

At the conclusion of the 20 second test the values of all data points are added together and divided by 800 to produce the mean (average) which is presented as the Balance Score.

Two different Balance Mat test scales

A person’s standing balance is tested in the normal stance. The normal stance results fall within the following three categories:

Excellent: 0 to 0.3
Good:   0.3 to 1
Poor:     Above 1

A person’s balance in the tandem and single-legged stances have a different range. These results fall within the following three categories:

Excellent: 0 to 2
Good: 2 to 10
Poor: Above 10

Physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and medical practitioners can use Balance Mat test results to ascertain if a person has a balance problem and treat them accordingly.

Balance is a universal health indicator

Given that balance (or postural sway) is a universal health indicator, poor results in the normal stance can tell the practitioner if the person has a potentially serious health problem such as a neurological issue or diabetes. Approximately 10% of people tested are in this category and require further investigation or treatment.

Poor balance in the other stances could indicate that the person has compromised or diminishing body strength (e.g. sarcopenia – age-related muscle loss). Alternatively, it could be that they have had an injury that needs further rehabilitation.

Test-treat-repeat-ability

The Balance Mat provides a useful outcome measure that can be updated many times during a person’s treatment – offering the practitioner test-treat-repeat-ability over an extended period of time.

How does the Balance Mat work?

By Published On: 20/06/20230 Comments
Multimetric Balance Mat from Balance Metrix

People often ask me how the Balance Mat works. I have jotted down a few words to answer the most frequently asked questions.

The Balance Mat measures the postural sway of a person standing on the mat in certain stances: normal, tandem, left foot, right foot. These stances are clearly marked by footprints identifying where the person being tested is required to stand.

Balance Mat – 14 data points per footprint

Within the mat substrate a single plastic optical fibre is woven in a crossing grid pattern in such a way that there are 14 crossover points in the substrate beneath each footprint, and therefore a total of 28 crossover points beneath a person standing with both feet on the mat. As movement on the mat surface increases, each of the 28 crossover points contributes to ‘measuring’ the cumulative movement (or postural sway) of the person standing on the mat.

A single sensor in the Balance Mat

A single sensor in the corner of the mat sends light through the fibre and then receives the light once it has passed through the fibre mesh. The sensor sends 40 pulses of light per second (40 Hertz) through the fibre mesh equating to 800 light pulses during a 20 second test. These 800 pulses are received by the sensor as data points and transmitted to the computer to create a signal shown as a graph.

No movement – a flatline graph

When there is no movement on the mat surface all these data points are zero, producing a flat line graph. As movement on the mat surface increases the data points increase in value, producing increasingly large waves and spikes in the graph.

Balance measurement results graph on computer screen
Right foot stance on Multimetric - Balance Metrix

How the score is derived

At the conclusion of the 20 second test the values of all data points are added together and divided by 800 to produce the mean (average) which is presented as the Balance Score.

Two different Balance Mat test scales

A person’s standing balance is tested in the normal stance. The normal stance results fall within the following three categories:

Excellent: 0 to 0.3
Good:   0.3 to 1
Poor:     Above 1

A person’s balance in the tandem and single-legged stances have a different range. These results fall within the following three categories:

Excellent: 0 to 2
Good: 2 to 10
Poor: Above 10

Physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and medical practitioners can use Balance Mat test results to ascertain if a person has a balance problem and treat them accordingly.

Balance is a universal health indicator

Given that balance (or postural sway) is a universal health indicator, poor results in the normal stance can tell the practitioner if the person has a potentially serious health problem such as a neurological issue or diabetes. Approximately 10% of people tested are in this category and require further investigation or treatment.

Poor balance in the other stances could indicate that the person has compromised or diminishing body strength (e.g. sarcopenia – age-related muscle loss). Alternatively, it could be that they have had an injury that needs further rehabilitation.

Test-treat-repeat-ability

The Balance Mat provides a useful outcome measure that can be updated many times during a person’s treatment – offering the practitioner test-treat-repeat-ability over an extended period of time.

  • The Neurometric Balance Mat is measuring the balance ability of elderly Singaporeans at the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI). Pictured is Mr Leow Zhun Hong (study senior clinical research coordinator).

Research into balance and sensory health

08/03/2024|0 Comments

A team of leading ophthalmology researchers who have been using the Neurometric Balance Mat in Singapore for the past nine months have provided me with this brief research update. Known as the PopulatION HEalth and Age-Related ...