Proprioception is the sense of knowing where your body is in space. It helps to maintain joint stability by providing feedback to the brain of body position and movement, assisting with balance and coordination of movement.
Proprioception can be impaired when joints are injured. Ligament strains, ACL or meniscus tears, shoulder dislocations and degenerative joint diseases (such as osteoarthritis) can all impair the sense of where your body is in space.
Is Balance the same thing?
Balance is the ability to maintain ones distribution of weight. Maintaining balance or center of mass requires the input from multiple sensory systems including the vestibular, somatosensory and visual system. Proprioception, on the other hand comes from an input of receptor nerves in the muscles, tendons and ligaments, which is then sent back up to the brain.
Any exercise that requires you to maintain balance will also help to develop a sense of where your body is in space. So you could say they come hand in hand or compliment one another. The harder you have to maintain your balance, the stronger proprioception becomes.
Why is proprioception and balance so important?
Developing a sense of knowing where you are in space plays an integral part in the prevention of falls and slips. Improving your proprioception and balance helps to prevent injury or re-injury of a joint. The loss of proprioception can often result in reduced postural control, reduced maximal strength and altered muscle reaction time. There is also evidence to suggest that balance and proprioception training can help prevent hamstring injuries.
How do I know if I have lost proprioception?
Any joint in the body can be affected, with the most common symptom being poor balance. When proprioception is lost, the sense of instability, or “giving way” can occur. 40% of ankle sprains result in re- injury due to loss of proprioception.
Exercises to help
Both equipment and balance type exercises can help to improve proprioception, with unpredictable movements the best way to train this position sense. Some examples include:
• Balancing on one leg
• Walking on heels backwards
• Wobble/ Balance boards
• Mini trampolines
• Dura disc exercises
• Swiss ball exercises
Every joint injury has the potential for loss of proprioception, and re-training is an important part of the rehabilitation process. With the help of a physiotherapist this loss can be minimised and you can be back on your feet, literally, in no time!
If you feel like your proprioception could be compromised with a recent injury BOOK ONLINE with one of our physios for an assessment, and they can help you implement an exercise program.