Proprioception: the body's GPS system
Proprioception sounds like a big fancy scientific word, but what is it? To put it simply, your proprioceptive system is your body’s gps system, and it’s what we use on a daily basis to know where our body is in space. For example, give this a try: close your eyes and try to touch your index finger to the tip of your nose. You should be able to do this on the first or second try, and we’re able to do this by using our proprioceptive system. Cool hey?
So how does the body do this? Your proprioceptive system is made up of receptors in your skin, muscles and joints, which are directly connected to the brain, via the nervous system. These receptors are called proprioceptors and there are 3 types:
These are found in your muscles and they are stimulated by stretch. So when the muscles are stretched, they transmit this information to the brain.
Golgi Tendon Organs (GTOs)
These receptors are located in your tendons (which is an extension of the muscle before it inserts into the bone), and they are stimulated by tension.
Joint Kinesthetic Receptors
JKR proprioceptors are found in your joints where the bone connects to bone. They are stimulated by joint movement, so when we move our joints, signals are transmitted to the brain so that we know in what position our body is.
The brain combines info from all these receptors and thereby allows us to know where our body is in space and what it’s doing, even without sight...and that’s why you’re able to touch your nose with your eyes closed. Pin point accuracy without sight.
What happens when you’re injured?
When an injury occurs, these receptors in various locations are often also impacted and can get damaged (this could include a bony fracture that affects your JKR receptors, a muscle strain impacting the muscle spindles or tendonitis which can damage your GTOs). So during your injury rehabilitation and recovery, we as Biokineticists always incorporate proprioceptive work to rebuild and strengthen your receptors. This is crucial for complete recovery! If this component isn’t mastered, you’ll have poor body spatial awareness and this can lead to re-injury.
Training the Proprioceptive System
Here’s 2 easy exercises you can do at home to improve your proprioception:
1. Balance on 1 leg with your eyes closed (if that’s too challenging first try standing on both legs with your eyes closed)
2. Close your eyes, straighten your arms out to the sides, then try to touch your index fingers together without bending your elbows
Ask your Biokineticist about Proprioceptive Training for your injury/condition.