Have you ever heard of proprioception? Although the term may look like rocket science, it is used to describe an ability of a person to feel where his or her body is located in space. It is even considered to be the sixth sense by some researchers. The ability can be improved by means of special exercises aimed at enhancing a person’s sense of balance. Let’s take a closer look at what proprioception can offer.
Image Credit: learn.genetics.utah.edu
Proprioception has become popular only recently, whereas researches in this field have been featured in medical journals for more than three decades. Have you ever been asked by your doctor to touch your nose with your eyes closed? That’s a test designed to reveal how good your proprioceptive ability is. If you fail to do it, it means there is something wrong with your body position analyzing system.
While vision is one of the primary sources of information which help us determine our body’s location in space, it’s not the only system that enables us to walk and move properly. Proprioception should not be confused with the vestibular system, which helps control spatial orientation and balance. All these elements work together to ensure a human can feel how his body is positioned.
This theoretical information can also be interesting because it helps develop a new kind of exercises, thus providing new opportunities for people to recover after injuries more efficiently, improve posture, and enhance your balance skills.
Evidence of Benefit
There are a number of researches which show that proprioceptive exercise is beneficial in many ways.
First, it can help healthy people improve their static and dynamic balance. According to a study conducted in 2017, ankle proprioceptive exercise affects dynamic balance to a great extent, while having a very limited effect on static balance.
However, in another research which aimed at determining how useful proprioceptive exercise can be for the military and was conducted in September 2017, it was stated that static balance can be significantly improved too.
Besides improving skills of healthy adults, it can also help reduce the recurrences of ankle sprain. In a randomized controlled trial, it was reported that the proprioceptive intervention program tested was associated with a 35% reduction in risk of recurrence of ankle sprain in athletes.
Patients with anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction can also benefit from proprioceptive exercise. In 2015, it was revealed that this kind of training can help recover after injuries resulting in loss of preoperative proprioception. Considerable improvement on knee proprioception and functional status imply a great potential of the method.
With such evidence, it is clear that proprioceptive exercise can be helpful to both those who lost proprioception due to some reasons and those who want to improve their balance skills and even posture.
Are Proprioceptive Exercises Good for Me?
Such exercises can help you regardless of whether you are a sportsman, a patient, or just a person willing to improve his or her balance skills. If you go in for sports, better proprioceptive ability can help you avoid injuries. Skiing, running, playing football – whatever sport you do, you change your body’s position, so proper balance is required to prevent falls and other things which may harm you.
Even if you do not like physical activities, you still have to move. Driving or climbing upstairs imply movement, and here is where proprioception matters too.
Your physiotherapist can teach you certain exercises which may be beneficial in your particular case. For example, you can consider this set of shoulder proprioceptive exercises.
Medical Definition of Proprioception – Medicinenet.com
Shoulder Proprioception Exercises – Royal Surrey County Hospital