Proprioception is the sense that allows our body to organize itself based on how we are oriented in time and space. It is the sense that allows us to coordinate our movement. From multitasking in the kitchen, to a smooth stride when we hit the pavement for a run, proprioception protects us from enduring injuries, and improves our body’s functional efficiency.
When an area of the body becomes injured, so do the structures that support our proprioception in that region. Even after full recovery of the joint structures, perception, pain and function may still differ from side to side. To counteract this imbalance, proprioception exercises are essential for complete recovery, and as a prevention for further strain.
Never sustained an injury? It is still important to incorporate balance and proprioception exercise into any fitness regime, as it trains our neural pathways to allow for precision in what we do. This enhanced awareness translates to a heightened performance so that we may better achieve our goals with good form – keeping injuries and pain at bay.
To begin your proprioceptive journey, here are a few exercises to get you started.
Static Balance Training: With your feet planted firmly on an even surface (like the floor) shift your weight from heel to toe, bringing awareness to the displacement of balance from your center of gravity. You can also try this by shifting your weight from side to side. Once you get the hang of this, you may challenge yourself to try both variations on an uneven surface such as a pillow or couch cushion.
Stork Standing: Begin by standing with feet shoulder width apart, planted firmly on an even surface. Be sure to stand near a wall or table for support in the event that you lose your balance. With shoulders relaxed and hands at your sides, lift one foot back and off of the floor, balancing your weight on one leg – like a stork! Try to hold this position for 30 seconds, or as long as you can manage before losing your balance. Repeat exercise standing on opposite side. Once you’re a pro at stork standing, challenge yourself by closing your eyes.
After mastering the basics…. if you wish to challenge yourself further you’ll want to begin training with a wobble board. The board is designed to pivot – awakening uncertainty and strengthening your muscles and ligaments as they work hard to support your body on an uneven surface.
If boosting your balance is one of your goals, your RMT can guide you through the process by helping you to establish your current capacity for proprioceptive exercise, and facilitating your improvement with the instruction of exercises specific to your needs.