Integrated Proprioceptive movement
Something that 99% of people I see every day suffer from is poor balance and proprioception and it can have a big effect on your life.
So what is Proprioception ?
Proprioception – The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuliwithin the body itself. Proprioception is what you use when for example you drive anywhere. You drive around navigating around the roads, you change gears and you know exactly where the gear stick is in relation to your body and the space around you. When you need to brake your foot moves from the accelerator to the brake without you looking to see where the brake is. Proprioceptoin is an unconscious perception of movement and spatialawareness from within the body and it is so very easily damaged. Damaged by spinal trauma, disease and various injuries it plays a huge role in the reason we repeatedly injure the same body parts time and time again.
The good news however is that you can train to improve it and to be honest, it’s actually pretty easy. Creating a stronger proprioception feedback loop will give you greater protection against dislocations and subluxations. One of the most common things I hear from those with hypermobility is that they feel they are unaware of where there legs are and this all comes down to prorioception.
Think of the old saying “practice makes perfect” and this could not be more relevant. Take for example learning to play guitar, this is a very difficult task but eventually you will be come aware of where each string and fret is located and what positions your hands need to be in without even looking. Jimmy Hendrix would play very fast and with some very complicated hand movements but because his proprioception was so finely tuned from years of practice, he forged those neural pathways and became one of the worlds best guitar player’s.
Is your Proprioception damaged ?
The answer sadly is more than likely yes. After my I.E.D blast in Afghanistan in 2009, and the formation spinal scar tissue shortly after pulling my entire body out of alignment causing my own chronic pain, my proprioception was absolutely horrendous. I remember when my first chiropractor performed a quick test on me to see if it was damaged and what he showed me completely shocked me as I just could not do it.
Test your own prorioception
If you are able to, stand up and walk an invisible line placing your heel on your leading foot close to the toes of your other foot like in the picture.
Easy huh? Well now try to do it with your eyes closed and not so easy is it..
This is because the brain and nervous system are constantly sending signals to various body parts, reacting in relationship to the information they are receiving. Any kind of damage to the brain or central nervous system is going to effect proprioception. Loss of proprioception is common in stroke victims and you can even give your self prorioception difficulties drinking alcohol. With alcohol having a big effect on the central nervous system, it understandable why it affects proprioception. Police regularly use the above technique as an easy way to see if you are drunk.
Training proprioception using Integrated Proprioceptive movement
Below I am going to go through a few exercises to help build on proprioception and balance. Balance comes hand in hand with proprioception and I have found over the years a massive correlation between a clients lack of balance and pain. Balance being the body’s ability to right itself quickly without much conscious involvement, improve balance and improve the proprioceptive feed back. I have also included these exercises in the programme below in the bid to help you achieve “intelligent movement” in the same way it helped me so many years ago.
Leg lifts –
It is very important during these exercises to make a conscious effort to stabilise the lower limb joints, draw the stomach in and to keep the core tight.
Stand up nice and tall and lift one leg up and hold it for 15-30 seconds alternate legs and when your ready to, do it with your eyes closed.
In my studio I use cones but you can use string or anything else to make an outline, such as furniture. Start in the bottom corner of the I and only stepping forwards, backwards or side to side using your body to navigate through the I, drawing it with your body with open eyes. Once you have a feel for how far you can move without stepping over the markers, close your eyes. Don’t worry if you find this very hard, most people will. If your proprioception has been affected you will struggle with this. Try this a few times and every few days test yourself and you will start to see huge differences each time.