Proprioception. What is it and why is it important?
Posted on: July 25th, 2011 by admin No Comments
Proprioception, in a nutshell, is the body’s perception of itself in space relative to its component parts i.e. its ‘position sense’.
It relies on combined information feeding to the brain from specialised receptors within the joints and soft tissues, visual input from the eyes, tactile input from touch and the functioning of the balance apparatus in the ears, to provide a sense of body position, balance and stability. Depending upon the body’s efficiency of this process, it then makes adjustments as necessary, to enable a person to walk, run, jump, reach and climb as precisely as possible and to limit the possibility of falling over, tripping up or mis-footing. For example, it is the system that allows a person to climb the stairs without looking down at their feet.
It is even more vital in sporting activities where precise movements, co-ordination, strength and agility are required and as such, helps in preventing sports-related injuries. Indeed research has shown that females in competitive sports such as football and netball, where twisting movements are common, sustain fewer injuries to their knee ligaments if proprioception is trained to a high level, and trained sports-specifically.
Following an injury, such as an ankle ligament sprain, these specialised receptors are often damaged, affecting the feedback of the proprioceptive information and consequently affecting an individual’s position sense from that affected joint. The good news is, that following an injury, proprioception can be retrained back to the level that the individual requires, as long as they include proprioceptive training in their rehabilitation process.
If proprioception is not addressed following an injury, the body area concerned is not only less efficient at providing the brain with this essential information in order for it to function effectively, but is then placed at risk of re-injury, leading to potential chronic joint problems.
Proprioceptive exercises should be included in the very early stages of rehabilitation and make up an important part of physiotherapy. Rehabilitation programmes including this type of training, can be tailor-made to address an individual’s needs and should be sports specific. Proprioceptive rehabilitation for football players will be different to that of a ballet dancer or a snowboarder, as the movements and co-ordination requirements for each sport are so specific. It has been proven that proprioceptive training enhances strength, balance and agility and can contribute to improving overall sports performance.
It is important to appreciate that proprioceptive rehabilitation is also just as important for an individual who does not play sport. Managing to run up the stairs, take the dog for a walk or carry bags of shopping still requires a certain level of proprioceptive ability and therefore a rehabilitation programme following an injury should reflect this precise level of need.
Interested? Get in touch with one of our physiotherapists for a full proprioceptive assessment and ‘screening' We can design a sports-specific programme that helps maximise your sporting potential and prevent re-injury. Additionally, even if you are not a sporty person, our physiotherapy programmes can help you to recover fully following an injury.