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What is Proprioception?
Simply said, proprioception is the body's sense of itself. It is how the brain/nervous system perceives the body's position in space and the body's movement through space. It is accomplished by a variety of receptor cells located in the joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and skin, that are sensitive to a stimulus. When a strong enough stimulus occurs, the proprioceptive cell is stimulated causing an impulse to travel through the sensory neuron to which it is attached. This sensory neuron then carries that impulse through the CNS (central nervous system) to the cerebellum in the brain, where proprioception resides. Proprioception occurs through all the body all the time. It is our body's 3-D awareness map in the brain. It is how the nervous system can vary muscle contractions as an immediate response to incoming information from external forces. Proprioception is the feel in golf of the club and club face throughout the golf swing.
Why is Proprioception important?
When there is a proprioceptive deficit, the body map in the brain becomes unable to tell where a muscle, joint, or movement is in space. In response, the nervous system will automatically go into survival mode to protect the area.
There may be a reduction in joint range of motion and/or a lessening in the amount of force production by the muscles. This lack of proprioception makes the muscles unable to contract properly, causing the joint to be unstable in certain positions. As a compensation, certain muscles will be under-working while other muscles are overworking. This affects our reflexes and coordination, making our movements less efficient.
Our performance deteriorates and we are more vulnerable to injury. Painful areas start to occur if the imbalances are not addressed. Compensations may spread to other areas of the body, ultimately producing a dysfunctional gait pattern. This puts wear and tear on our joints and may eventually lead to osteoarthritis.
All the muscles in the body work together, like an orchestra. If one person in the orchestra gets out of tune, it affects the other people around him, and they become out of tune, pretty soon, if left uncorrected, the whole orchestra is out of tune. It's the same with our musculature.
What is Neuro Proprioceptive Muscle Testing?
This type of testing is designed to evaluate proper neural input to a muscle in its shortened position. It is performed to see if a muscle can contract to stabilize a joint, rather than to determine the strength of a muscle contraction. A force of less than 30 pounds is applied to a joint in a specific direction to emphasize the fibers of a particular muscle. It is then determined if the muscle can stabilize the joint or not.
What is Ground Reaction Force?
It is the force or load that is produced when our foot hits the ground during gait. Approximately 1-2 times our body weight is going into the ground, and because of Newton's third law of motion (for every action there is an opposite reaction), 1-2 times our body weight is coursing up through our body. Some say, with good reason, that it is the most important external force acting upon the human body in motion. To give you an idea of the amount of force our body is exposed to in a single day, here are the calculations for a SEDENTARY person weighing 150 pounds.
150 lb. person x 2 = 300 lb. of force going up the body in each step
300 x 5000 steps = 1,500,000 of force the body is exposed to in a single day
You can see why a small issue may create a major dysfunction in a short period of time.
Why are our Feet so important?
With 28 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, the foot is a truly marvelous structure. The human foot sends a barrage of information to the brain. There are over two hundred thousand receptors on the bottom of the foot sending information to the brain about changes in terrain, and mechanoreceptors in the joints and muscles informing the brain of its movement. If this communication is disrupted or impaired, or the bio-mechanics have changed, abnormal forces will be transmitted up the body.
From "Normal and Abnormal Bio-mechanics of the Foot"(Root,Orion, and Weed). Any condition preventing the normal range of subtalar pronation will result in pathological amounts of stress being transmitted up the leg to the pelvis and the lumbar spine.
What Role Does Footwear Play in Gait ?
The moment we put on a pair of conventional shoes that have a stiff sole, elevated heel, toe spring, and a tapered toe box, we will not experience natural gait. Most shoes change the way we move, our posture, and negatively change the shape of our foot to the shape of the shoe. These changes create a weakness in the muscles and stiffness or pain around the joints. Our foot no longer functions as it was intended.
At birth, our toes had natural spaces between them and were wider than the balls of the feet. By age two or three we begin to wear shoes that push our toes together in an unnatural pathological alignment. This compromises the toes natural grasping and balancing functions. Proper toe alignment is also critical for optimal propulsion during walking and running. This deformation occurs slowly over time so we don't notice till later in life, as bunions, hammer toes, neuromas, or plantar fasciitis (fasciosis) at foot level. Or, stiffness and pain in the knees, hips, and spine, traveling up the neck to the occiput and even the TMJ.
What shoes do you recommend?
Our shoes should allow our feet to be as close to being barefoot as possible. They should be flat (no heel or toe spring), be flexible enough that you can twist and flex them easily, and have a wide toe box that allows the toes to be in their natural alignment. Go to "links" for a selection of recommend footwear.