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What is Proprioception and Why is it Important?


Proprioception, also known as kinesthesia, is the body's ability to sense where it is, how it moves, and what it is doing. For example, walking without looking down at your feet or consciously put one foot in front of the other are examples of proprioception. It is your body's ability to know where it is in space. Proprioception is a result of the sensory receptors in the nervous system and body. These receptors are located in your joints, muscles, tendons, and on your skin. When you move, the receptors will send detailed messages to your brain. The brain will use the nervous system, vestibular system along with your vision to create the perception of where your body is and how it is moving. It can sense the effort, force, and heaviness or our actions and positions and will respond in the proper way. There are conditions that can cause disorders in the proprioceptive system. Some indicators of a proprioception disorder are:

  • Falling while walking across uneven surfaces

  • Uncoordinated movement, such as difficulty walking in a straight line

  • Balance issues, which can increase the risk of falling

  • Clumsiness - bumping into things or dropping objects

  • Poor postural control - having to place extra weigh on a table to balance while sitting or slouching

  • Trouble recognizing your own strength -for example, not being able to gauge the force needed to pick up and object

The risk of loss of proprioception often increases as we get older due to the changes in nerves, joints, and muscles that happen during the aging process. Examples of conditions and injuries that cab cause proprioceptive deficit include:

  • stroke

  • arthritis

  • multiple sclerosis

  • diabetes

  • peripheral neuropathy

  • Parkinson's disease

  • brain injuries

  • Herniated disc

  • Joint injuries - such as ankle sprain or knee sprain and also joint replacement surgery (hip replacement, knee replacement)

A healthcare professional (eg: doctor, physical therapist, or occupational therapist) will be able to perform an exam (including a neurological exam). A physical therapist can assess proprioception with equipment that controls and measures movements of arms, legs, back, and feet. A doctor may order other diagnostic tests to rule out any underlying medical conditions or injuries.

Treatment for proprioception disorders involve therapies and exercises that will improve strength and improve balance and coordination. Treatment options include:

  • balance exercises (standing on one foot, in line balance)

  • physical therapy to improve motor skills, improve strength, and balance

  • occupational therapy to help with managing daily tasks

  • somatosensory stimulation training (vibration therapy)

  • tai chi - which improves lower limb proprioception

  • yoga and pilates-which improve balance, increases stability around the joints, and increases muscle strength

Proprioception is a vital part of every move that you make and continuing to work on strength, stability, and balance will help to improve your motor skills.






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