Proprioception plays an essential role in balance. It is defined as “the perception of joint and body movement as well as position of the body, or body segments, in space”. This allows an individual to sense the orientation of their body in most environment’s, which can allow for quick and free movements that do not require conscious thought.
Proprioception is a constant loop within your nervous system, telling you where you are and what position you are in. This loop originates from the nerve endings that provide the information to the brain about limb positions. The positioning is determined by the information sent through the nerve endings by muscle spindles, joint capsules, ligaments, muscles, tendons and skin. An example of proprioception is in a person’s ability to sense the surface that they are standing on without visual feedback.
Proprioception plays a key component in balance, as the information relayed through the feet can tell you what type of surface you are standing on. As we age the sensation in our lower extremities decreases, therefore there is a decrease in our lower limb proprioception starting at the feet and moving up the lower limbs. There are ways that you can work to improve your proprioception by participating in movement. The way to achieve the best outcomes are to participate in movements or exercise that have a high level of sensory input, require cognitive processing, should be slow and controlled movements, and are non- painful.
For example try placing a pen on the ground and try to pick it up by only using your toes. This activity allows for movements through the toes, sensory feedback from trying to grip the pen and control in the pace that the movement can be performed at.