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Proprioceptive Training, Part Two: Injury and Proprioceptive Deficits

How does damage or altered proprioception occur? After an injury, or just not using our bodies can create less stimulation to the proprioceptors.  It’s “use it or lose it” with our constantly changing nervous system.  The body can lose some of its proprioceptive ability due to pain which will have an effect on muscular activation patterns and these processing delays can show up due to the body’s attempt to protect the area.  Pain inhibits proprioception and can alter muscle activation patterns.  This error in processing can lie dormant and can result in further injuries to the same area.

Benefits of proprioceptive training: Making our athletes consciously aware of their movements integrates the mind-body link, balance reactions, strength, agility, and quickness.  You can change the body to become more reactive and quick.  You can improve the body’s balance, the body’s ability to right itself, by improving proprioceptive feedback through training.

Here is the good news, proprioceptive training works!
The body learns new things with practice.  Here, we are essentially training the nervous system which has a vast ability to improve. Incorporating 2 x week proprioceptive drills designed for your sport will make you a better athlete and help you perform better at life.  The most rapid results of any training program involve proprioception gains.

Some key exercises or activities that can enhance proprioception and have a beneficial effect on kinesthetic awareness are:

1.  Movements in different planes of motion with different modes (forms of dancing, yoga, and tai chi).


2.  Traditional cardio exercise such as running, swimming, and cycling.


3.  Balance training with the eyes open and closed. 


4.  Rotational and side to side movements outside of the forward plane of motion that challenge the body in multiple directions are best. 

5.  Side to side and rotational movements that load the body’s muscles and joints improve the body’s ability to decelerate and accelerate quickly.  

By training the nervous system, we can respond more quickly to changes in our body position and our brain becomes more efficient and faster at responding.  Examples of proprioceptive training that we use in the clinic and in sports medicine include Bosu, or unstable surface training using rollers, spheres, and balance boards that include exercises for foot, ankle, and knee injuries.  Throwing and catching drills using a medicine ball are most commonly used for post operative reconstruction of the shoulder.  Neck proprioceptive training is common after a neck injury and includes guided exercises to retrain head position and positional sense using visual tracking.

Train your Proprioceptors!  Every body and brain can benefit 🙂 .

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2 Responses to Proprioceptive Training, Part Two: Injury and Proprioceptive Deficits

  1. Graham 2011/01/28 at 3:15 am #

    I’m suffering from bad neck proprioceptive problems. I have a kind of postural sway. My main question is what exactly is neck proprioceptive training? What are the excercises used? All I seem to find on the internet is this or that study which proves this or that but I can never find the actual excersises.
    Please Help

    • Tammara Moore, DPT 2011/01/28 at 11:34 am #

      Hi Graham. Thanks for your comment. It is difficult to give or show specific exercises that need to be accurately taught and tailored to a specific individual’s neurological condition. The good news is that a trained, educated Doctor of PT can precribe and administer proper proprioceptive exercises for the neck and postural sway-these would not be generic, they would need to be tailored to your specific needs with postural sway. We use balance activities and eye tracking along with upper extremity movements, eyes open/eyes closed; an example is using a laser pointer attached to a headband to track specific objects on the wall in front of the patient to work on neck control. Hope this helps!

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