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Proprioception: Understanding our sixth sense

Last Modified: November 17, 2023

Sports & Exercise


This post was written by Raymond Wilson, ATC, certified athletic trainer, Parkview Sports Medicine.

In the rehabilitative or even sports performance setting, you may hear of someone doing proprioception training. Which brings up the most obvious question: what is proprioception? In this post, I’ll explain the concept and discuss how it helps with rehabilitation.

What is proprioception?

A good place to start talking about proprioception is with our senses. In school, most of us were taught about our five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. However, when it comes to our bodies, proprioception can be thought of as a sixth sense. Proprioception is what allows your body to sense where it is. More specifically, proprioception allows the brain to understand where and how a joint or body part is moving.

How does proprioception work?

All our senses have organs associated with them. Hearing and vision correspond with our ears and eyes, and so on. The same is true of proprioception. All throughout your body, in your muscles, skin and connective tissue, you have mechanoreceptors that allow you to “feel” where your limbs are. This could be where your shoulder is compared to your torso or how hard you are kicking your leg.

Proprioception and rehabilitation

A simple way we may use proprioception training in rehabilitation is balance training. In one of these exercises, a person may have to balance on an uneven surface with their eyes closed. The body’s sense of proprioception will tell the person if they are beginning to fall or lose their balance. This will cause them to work the muscles they are strengthening to correct themselves and avoid falling.

Through this exercise, and others like it, a person both increases muscular control and improves their sense of proprioception.

To learn more about athletic physical therapy and rehabilitation available through Parkview Sports Medicine, visit us online here.

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