Tuesday 13 March 2018

The Sixth Sense You Need For Injury Prevention

In broad, obvious terms, we have five senses. Touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing. In reality, however, the body actually has many more sensory systems than that. Thermoreceptors in the body detect temperature; chemoreceptors detect chemical changes (such as what your immune system requires); equilibrium from your inner ear handily lets you know if you happen to upside-down or not.

And then there's proprioception, which happens to be one of the most important senses that our bodies have in order to move, function, and avoid pain and injury.

Proprioception is the sense of where a body part is in space. For instance, if you close your eyes and raise your arm into the air, you will, no matter what, be aware that you arm is above your head.

Where is it? WHERE IS IT?
Those proprioceptive sensations can be much more subtle than that as well, though. Take, for example, single-leg standing on an unstable surface. It's your body's ability to sense minor changes in position and weight shift that contribute to your ability balance. That proprioception that you have for the joints in your leg provide the feedback that your brain needs to coordinate the muscles in this case.

With that in mind, it should be easy to understand how a lack of well-trained proprioception can result in a higher risk of injury. Lacking proprio in a joint certainly affects its overall stability, increasing the chance of tissue failure when the body can't properly adjust for a stimulus.

From observation and speculation in the research, there's also a link between a lack of proprioception and chronic pain in absence of true tissue damage. Lower back pain patients, for example, are demonstrated to have this sense impaired basically across the board! It may be that the body's inability to accurately reposition itself as needed could be resulting in increase muscle-guarding activity and heightened pain sensitivity as a protective response.

This being said, proprio is a vital system to retrain when rehabbing clients. It's not as easy as simply strengthening some muscles and increasing flexibility in others, as the body still won't be receptive to letting go of it's protective responses if it can't effectively sense those changes in joint position. In fact, I've had incredibly strong clients with no significant weaknesses remain plateaued in their recovery simply due to this fact! Given that proprioception can be lost as a result of injury, surgery, and even growth spurts, being mindful of this domain is one of the most crucial aspects of an effective recovery program.


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