Proprioception, movement control and cleaning the lens of the 6th sense

Where would we be without it? In the case of proprioception it would be literally hard to say.  It identifies the margins of our world, traces it edges, feels its weight and tells us if we are stationary or moving, what direction we are moving, what range we are moving through and how fast we are travelling through it. Supplying real time and constantly updating status reports of the body’s biomechanical and spatial properties proprioception affords the CNS the ability to achieve its movement outcomes (Maravita et al., 2003). It offers a route of learning as actual performance is compared to a desired, intended skill delivery, improving the next attempt, and allowing restoration of lost movement options. Movement health, the desired end state of movement control interventions, is highly reliant on the fidelity of well integrated proprioceptive flow. Awareness of joint position, movement, and force, heaviness, and effort supply the sensory ‘CCTV’ the body demands for excellent movement quality (Riemann & Lephart, 2002).

Pain clouds the lens

Pain, both acute and chronic disturbs the ‘monitoring system’, producing undesirable changes peripherally (Johansson et al., 2003) and centrally (Moseley & Flor, 2012). Proprioception is also subject to deterioration in the presence of fatigue and exercise induced muscle damage (EIMD), as soreness alters the triumvirate of joint position, kinaethesia and force sense (Torres et al., 2010). When proprioception is diminished movement quality falls, synergies of muscle activation and co-ordination with other muscles begin to alter and control is challenged. Pain clouds the lens of proprioception and sharp, focussed patterns of movement blur, even when the pain is long absent.

Load can clean the lens

Movement analysis reveals there are deficits with in movement control, yet how do we restore movement acuity in the presence of proprioceptive vacancy? One method to help clear the misty lens is load. Controlled load that facilitates accuracy as opposed to eliciting peripheral fatigue supplies the proprioceptive equivalent of a stencil, guiding the path, steadying the hand. Progression requires the removal of loading in order to challenge the quality of movement efficiency as intrinsic systems are increasingly sensitive to position, speed and effort.

Movement Health reminder

The Movement Health philosophy identifies four components to good movement health:

  • Control – the ability to control movement when we choose
    Intensity – the ability to display control at varying intensities (high & low recruitment environments)
    Variability – the ability to perform movement tasks with a range of options.
    One more; awareness- the ability to notice, to detect, to have the sense of how our body moves.

Proprioception; where would we be without it?