Proprioception is an important part of muscles and sports training. Use this guide and information to help you get started.
What is proprioception?
Proprioception is essentially the body’s ability to sense movements, actions, surroundings, and location.
It happens through constant communication between sensory receptors throughout your body and your nervous system.
To simplify, it’s the reason a person can perform certain actions without thinking about it such as walking without looking at your feet or being able to touch your nose with your eyes closed.
Proprioception is a sense of body awareness that we use constantly in our everyday lives.
Not only do things such as balance, spatial awareness, and movement result from proprioception but it also allows us to know how much force we are exerting in each action through the receptors in our muscles.
It is why we can develop motor skills and motions that we perform regularly. Some of this comes naturally however it can also be trained through repetition and exercises.
Proprioception is crucial in performing multiple movements simultaneously in a fluid manner. This makes it infinitely important about training, exercise, sports, etc.
How to test proprioception?
Various tests can be performed to test one’s proprioception.
People may want to test their proprioception if they feel coordination is lacking, they have balance issues, or they find themselves avoiding simple tasks because they are difficult.
It’s very common for medical professionals to assess proprioception following injury, after surgery, during rehabilitation, or if a neurological condition may be suspected.
Tests may involve:
- Romberg test
- Stand unsupported for 30 seconds with your heels together and your eyes closed.
- If you lose your balance during that time this may be an implication of proprioception impairment
- Field sobriety test
- Consuming alcohol results in a decrease in proprioception, therefore field sobriety tests are conducted if someone is thought to be intoxicated
- These can vary from closing your eyes and touching your nose, walking a straight-line heel to toe, balancing on one leg, etc.
- Thumb finding test
- The tester will put the thumb of one hand in a certain position
- You must then have to pinch the thumb with your opposing thumb and forefinger while your eyes are closed
- Finger touching
- Touch each of your fingers sequentially to your thumb beginning with the forefinger and ending with the pinky finger
- Distal proprioception test
- The tester will move one of your phalanges in a certain motion while you watch
- You must then repeat the same motion with your eyes closed
- The patient is asked to touch the heel of one foot to the opposite knee and then to drag their heel in a straight line all the way down the front of their shin and back up again
How do you train Proprioception?
Training proprioception does happen naturally when learning new movements, activities, sports, etc.
However, there are ways to specifically help to train proprioception-
- Repeating or practicing any specific movements to develop muscle memory will result in increased proprioception
- Balance training
- Any training that has a focus on balance will help to improve proprioception
- These may include-
- Training with a Swiss ball or Bosu ball
- One leg exercise i.e.- squat, deadlift, etc.
- Heel to toe walking
- Alternating knee lifts while walking
- And any number of exercises that require balance
- Thai Chi
- The motions involved in Thaiu Chi improve lower body proprioception
- Many of the motions in Yoga require balance and coordination
- This will help to improve full-body proprioception
- Coordination exercises
- Performing tasks that require a high level of coordination and motor skills can improve proprioception
What is an example of proprioception?
There are many examples of basic proprioception that can help to give people a better understanding of what it is:
- Walking or running without looking at your feet.
- The ability to bring your forefinger to a specific part of your body, such as your nose, with your eyes closed.
- Being able to kick an object without watching you kicking your leg.
- Drinking from a cup without thinking about the motion.
- Knowing how much force to use when grabbing something or pushing/pulling.
- Being able to stand on one foot with your eyes closed.
What does proprioceptive mean?
The term proprioceptive can be used in relation to anything that requires proprioception.
The communication between the sensory receptors in muscles/joints and the nervous system would mean that they are proprioceptive.
This could also be referred to as the proprioceptive system.
What are the proprioceptive senses?
Proprioceptive senses are effectively another way of saying proprioception.
They are the ‘senses’ that allow us to balance subconsciously, exert the right amount of force for a given task, know where our body and limbs are at any given time, and perform certain tasks without watching the movement.
How is proprioception different from touch?
In proprioception, the sensory information is coming from your muscles and joints, whereas with touch, it’s coming from the skin.
Your brain receives proprioceptive feedback from your joints and muscles when they respond to specific movements or positions.
It’s important to know the difference because it will help you understand how proprioception works and how it affects the muscular system in the body.
Proprioception tells your brain where the parts of your limbs are and helps you move the various parts of your body such as feet, neck, arms, legs, and even your spine.
Have there been any studies on proprioceptive?
There have been several studies done on proprioceptive and how they can affect fitness during and after an injury.
The main is titled The Effects of Comprehensive Warm-Up Programs on Proprioception, Static and Dynamic Balance on Male Soccer Players from 2012.
The study investigated the effects of FIFA 11+ and HarmoKnee, both being popular warm-up programs on proprioception and the static and dynamic balance of professional male soccer players.
The programs were performed for 2 months (24 sessions). Proprioception was measured bilaterally at 30°, 45°, and 60° knee flexion using the Biodex Isokinetic Dynamometer.
- The proprioception error of the dominant leg significantly decreased from pre- to post-test by 2.8% and 1.7% in the 11+ group at 45° and 60° knee flexion, compared to 3% and 2.1% in the HarmoKnee group.
- The largest joint positioning error was in the non-dominant leg at 30° knee flexion (mean error value = 5.047), (p<0.05).
- The static balance with the eyes opened increased in the 11+ by 10.9% and in the HarmoKnee by 6.1% (p<0.05).
- The static balance with eyes closed significantly increased in the 11+ by 12.4% and in the HarmoKnee by 17.6%.
- The results indicated that static balance was significantly higher in eyes opened compared to eyes closed (p = 0.000). Significant improvements in SEBT in the 11+ (12.4%) and HarmoKnee (17.6%) groups were also found.
There was also a study titled The Effect of Instability Training on Knee Joint Proprioception and Core Strength from 2012.
The objective of this study was to examine training adaptations associated with a 10-week instability-training program.
Participants were tested pre-and post-training for trunk extension and flexion strength and knee proprioception. Forty-three participants participated in either a 10-week (3 days per week) instability-training program using Swiss balls and body weight as resistance or a control group (n = 17).
- The trained group increased (p < 0. 05) trunk extension peak torque/body weight (23.6%) and total work output (20.1%) from pre- to post-training while the control group decreased by 6.8% and 6.7% respectively.
- The exercise group increased their trunk flexion peak torque/body weight ratios by 18.1% while the control group decreased by 0.4%.
- Knee proprioception (combined right and left joint repositioning) improved 44.7% from pre- to post-training (p = 0.0006) and persisted (21.5%) for 9 months post-training.
- In addition, there was a side interaction with the position sense of the right knee at 9 months showing 32.1% (p = 0.03) less deviation from the reference angle than the right knee during pre-testing.
- An instability-training program using Swiss balls with bodyweight as resistance can provide prolonged improvements in joint proprioception and core strength in previously untrained individuals performing this novel training stress which would contribute to general health.
Another study was done on the effectiveness of proprioceptive training for improving motor function in 2015.
The following criteria were subsequently applied:
(1) A quantified pre-and post-treatment measure of proprioceptive function.
(2) An intervention or training program believed to influence or enhance proprioceptive function.
(3) Contained at least one form of treatment or outcome measure that is indicative of somatosensory function.
From a total of 1284 articles, 51 studies fulfilled all criteria and were selected for further review.
- Overall, proprioceptive training resulted in an average improvement of 52% across all outcome measures.
- Applying muscle vibration above 30 Hz for longer durations (i.e., min vs. s) induced outcome improvements of up to 60%.
- Joint position and target reaching training consistently enhanced joint position sense (up to 109%) showing an average improvement of 48%.
- Cortical stroke was the most studied disease entity, but no clear evidence indicated that proprioceptive training is differentially beneficial across the reported diseases.
- There is converging evidence that proprioceptive training can yield meaningful improvements in somatosensory and sensorimotor function.
- Those forms of training utilizing both passive and active movements with and without visual feedback tended to be most beneficial.
- There is also initial evidence suggesting that proprioceptive training induces cortical reorganization, reinforcing the notion that proprioceptive training is a viable method for improving sensorimotor function.
Having good proprioception is important in sports and injuries because having a good sense of movement and spatial awareness can help you protect your body and muscles.
Studies also show that proprioception can improve motor skills and help you perform better when it comes to working out and playing sports.