While at a physical therapy appointment or sports training you may have heard the term “proprioception” being used. Although you may not know it by name it is something you use consciously or unconsciously everyday. Proprioception is defined as the body’s awareness of its’ position in space. It consists of our joint position sense and motion sense which allows us to maintain our balance/posture when outside stresses are placed on our bodies. It also helps us to adjust the amount of muscular force we need in order to move/pick up objects. Proprioception happens as receptors in our muscles, tendons, and joints relay information to the spinal cord and brain allowing us to adjust our body positioning to maintain equilibrium.
Proprioception is an important measurement especially after dealing with an injury or surgery as it is often decreased at this time which can result in further injury if not addressed. Some common exercises that are given to improve proprioception include:
STATIC (without movement):
-Double leg stance on stable then unstable ground working to narrow your base of support. Can also increase difficulty by having eyes closed or adding perturbations (outside pushes to challenge stability).
-Single leg stance on stable then unstable ground maintaining balance for 30 seconds or more. Can also increase difficulty by having eyes closed or adding perturbations (outside pushes to challenge stability).
DYNAMIC (during movement):
-Weight shifts (side-side/diagonal) on stable then unstable ground. Can increase difficulty by closing eyes.
-Mini squats in stable then unstable ground (airex or tilt board)
-Lunging or stepping up to stable then unstable surface.
Although many of these exercises may seem basic the amount of feedback they require is great and will improve your overall proprioception, in turn decreasing re-injury rates. So in other words do not skip these on your home exercise plan! If proprioception is severely impaired one technique that can be tried is Kinesiotaping. There are many studies that show the application of kinesiotape not only provides support to structures and muscles but also improves blood/lymphatic circulation improving the overall ability of the skin receptors and proprioceptors to function properly. This technique can work well for those suffering from a stroke or severe swelling where sensation is impaired.