Proprioception enables us to move in a co-ordinated way. It is therefore important in daily life as well as in sport where precise, co-ordinated movements are required. Proprioception is both conscious and, in relation to posture, subconscious. It allows you to know where different parts of your body are within space and relative to each other and their relative speed of movement, without having to look.
Try standing on one leg and you find that your body is continually making minor adjustments of your muscles (shortening and lengthening) to keep you balanced. You have receptors in your muscles, at muscle/tendon joints and around your joints (including in the ligaments there).These send nerve impulse to your central nervous system when their state alters so a reflex action is created e.g. a muscle shortens, causing tension in the tendon, receptors there create nerve impulses which cause a reflex action to relax the muscle to prevent the tendon and muscle from being overly tensed and therefore damaged.
When your proprioception isn’t functioning properly you are at a greater risk of injury. If, for example, an injured ankle is not correctly rehabilitated in terms of proprioception as well as strength and flexibility, it will be highly susceptible to re-injury.
Proprioception can be improved through exercises such as standing on one leg or sitting on a fitball. Proprioception exercises should be progressive and combined with strengthening, reduction of scar tissue, range of movement exercises and soft tissue treatments to help maintain proper function of surrounding muscles. Here at Jīròu we incorporate proprioception exercises into all our injury rehabilitation programmes.