Proprioception is something which a few of my clients will have heard me talk about. In today’s blog post I am going to discuss what it is and why I keep banging on about it!
Proprioception is the body’s awareness of its own positioning. It is how your body knows where your arm is when you are in the dark.
Proprioception works by neurotransmitters in your tendons, which can detect the amount of stretch within the tissues, allowing your brain to work out the position of your joints. This allows your brain to put together a picture of where all of your limbs are and therefore where your arm is in space… even when you can’t see it.
It also allows your body to work out how to fine tune itself when encountering changing circumstances like walking from concrete to the beach. When you do this your body automatically adapts the way it holds itself and moves to keep you stable and safe…. Cool eh?!!
All animals use proprioception just like we do to enable them to navigate the world around them while reducing their risk of injury. So… why is it so important?? Well proprioception can become altered or damaged fairly easily. When any form of neurological damage occurs, the proprioceptive nerve fibres and the most easily and so first to be damaged. Also following injury or chronic pain, the brain often alters the body’s automatic posture and movement, this skews proprioception and can lead to weakness.
A lack of proprioception leaves the body less able to detect it’s own positioning and therefore leaves it more vulnerable to injury as the body can ‘forget’ to protect itself from over extending joints etc.
The bottom line is that everyone can benefit from good proprioception, whether you are a cat, trying to land on your feet from a fall, a dog who has received neurological trauma and is learning to walk again, or a horse who struggles to navigate gridwork lines. Proprioception can be improved in many ways, via massage techniques, active work over differing surfaces, polework, or balance exercises.