Proprioception (“proprio”- “of oneself” and “ception”- “perception”) is the ability of a joint to self-locate within the surrounding space and in relation to the other joints in our body.
Proprioception also underpins and contributes to the stability of a joint and therefore to its health and protection from injury. A stable joint is a strong joint.
When it comes to strength and proprioception various structures are involved in providing our body with the biomechanical prerequisites to achieve stability. These are ligaments, tendons, fibrous-cartilaginous structures such as menisci and articular cartilage and of course muscles.
All of them possess within their very structure, receptors for movement and position that give feedback to the nervous system information about the quality and integrity of their tissues as well as how well in synergy these tissues are working with the ones from adjacent anatomical structures. These receptors constitute the foundation of our proprioceptive system.
When an injury such as an ankle sprain or a knee trauma occurs, these structures might suffer structural damage that leads to the receptors to fail in feedbacking information to the nervous system, resulting in the injured joint becoming unstable. An unstable joint will likely feel painful and wobbly, with many patients often reporting a feeling of “giving way” or lack of support when walking, running, or even just carrying out their daily activities.
Exercises that you are likely to be prescribed to restore proprioception are:
– Balance on an unstable surface such as a Bosu (half-inflated wobble board) either with your hands from a plank position or just standing on it.
– Elastic band exercises to better target tendons’ strength and conditioning.
– Plyometric exercises such as bouncing on a rehab trampoline or Bosu to address progressive loading of joints and soft tissues.
– Tandem walking.
– Heel walking
Depending on the severity of the injury, a rehab program can generally last from 4 to 12 weeks and your physiotherapist or osteopath will guide you through the whole length of it with regular updates on the exercises to support you through all stages of recovery”