Proprioception - “position sense”
This is the perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body in space.
It depends on the relationship between the soft tissues of the body and the central nervous system. Sensory organs, aka proprioceptors, are found within the soft tissues. The proprioceptors send messages to the nervous system which carry information on pressure and sensory changes or the lengthening of a muscle fibre. A feedback loop is created between nerves and soft tissues. This loop is crucial, for example, when moving on unfamiliar terrain or transitioning between hard and soft ground. Continuous, minor sensory postural adjustments are made to prevent one from stumbling or falling.
Examples of proprioception.
In Life - Driving home in your car, while reaching with an arm for the garage remote without taking your eyes off the road.
Knowing whether you are standing on wet grass or a Stoney beach without looking down
In Pilates - balancing on one leg or lying supine and lifting one leg to a tabletop.
Legs in straps on the reformer - circling the legs while the body remains stationary
Forward Lunge on the Wunda Chair - relocating the pedal with the floating leg on the way down.
Performing simultaneous movements without stopping to think of each separate action - Hip circles on the mat, where the legs circle downwards in a clockwise direction and the arms circle upwards in an anticlockwise direction.
Crisscross - whereby the legs alternatively pedal forward while the upper body rotates from side to side.
Injury contributes to tissue damage which in turn can impair proprioception. Damaged tissue does not function correctly and therefore proprioception can be lost. An injury may cause a person to avoid exercise, thereby exacerbating the issue. Over time the loss of proprioception can lead to a more acute injury or joint damage such as arthritis.
Neurological conditions can also impair proprioception eg. Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson's Disease.
Restoring Proprioception loss via simple rehabilitative exercises will:
Improve spatial awareness
Increase a sense of joint position
Boost agility and speed
Better one’s coordination
Simple, regular exercises will greatly assist in improving proprioception. These include:
Standing on one leg and moving the floating leg to the cardinal points of a compass.
Single leg squats