How Do You Know Where Your Nose Is?
Everyone learns about the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. Equally important is proprioception, sometimes called the sixth sense. Significantly, proprioception is how people control their body parts without looking at them.
Do This Experiment:
- First, close your eyes.
- Second, raise both hands above your head.
- Next, keeping your eyes closed, touch the end of your nose with your right-hand forefinger. Then, touch the thumb of your left hand.
- With this in mind, repeat this experiment with each finger of your right hand.
How did you do? Moreover, did you find your thumb every time? Likewise, did it get easier each time you did the experiment?
All About Proprioception
You can successfully do the above experiment because of proprioception, or “body awareness”. To clarify, proprioception is the reason you can run without watching your feet. Further, it’s how you know how much effort is needed to lift a glass of water without tossing it into your face.
All coordinated movement depends on proprioception. Thus, impaired proprioception, whether from neurological damage or drunkenness, makes simple activities like walking or standing, impossibly difficult.
For this reason, proprioception is more than a vague sense of where you are in space. Specifically, it’s a combination of three things:
- Body awareness
- Joint position awareness
Although it’s an internal, subconscious mechanism, proprioception is observable, and measurable. In general, if you lose it, regaining it requires time and effort. Ultimately, you require help from someone who knows how to put it back into operation. (AboutProprioception) (WhatIsProprioception)
How Balance Works
To begin with, our ability to stay upright and move through space is determined by sensory receptors. Chiefly, these receptors orient us. For example, balance is controlled through signals to the brain. Specifically, signals are sent from your eyes, the inner ear, and the body’s sensory systems. In fact, this system is known as the vestibular system. (HowBalanceSystemWorks)
How You Lose Proprioception
On the negative side, proprioception can be impaired when someone is injured. As an illustration, damage done to soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments, results in garbled messages to your brain. Accordingly, you don’t realize that your body needs protection. For example, people who experience falls, are become at risk to fall again.
Meanwhile, proprioception gets worse as you get older, in ways that can impair stability, Consequently, you may lose your confidence. As a result, you become unsteady, and that impairs your mobility. (ProprioceptionBalanceExercises)
Balance: Use It or Lose It
The most common symptom of reduced proprioception, seen as one gets older, is poor balance. In fact, one out of three people age 65 and older falls each year. Surprisingly, falls are the top cause of injury death among that population. In particular, men are more likely than women to be killed in falls. On the other hand, women suffer more nonfatal injuries, including fractured bones more frequently.
What can you do? In general, you may not think about practicing balance as important throughout your life. At the same time, you may ride a bike to strengthen your heart and lungs. Alternatively, you lift weights to slow muscle loss. In the same way, practicing balance can improve proprioception. (WorkBalanceAvoidFalls)
Balance Exercises Anywhere, Anytime
You don’t have to go to a gym or use fancy equipment to work on balance. Nevertheless, when you spend time standing on one leg you experience ongoing benefits. In light of that, the time spent waiting in line, or talking on the phone, are perfect times to practice.
With this in mind, practice the following exercises. As a result, you’ll get stronger and your balance will improve
Stand on One Foot
- Start by standing on one foot using a sturdy chair as support.
- Next, hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Finally, repeat 8 to 12 times with each leg.
Walk With Heel to Toe
- First stand and place the heel of one foot directly in front (touching) the toes of the other foot.
- At the same time, focus on a spot ahead of you to keep you steady as you walk.
- Second, take a step, placing the heel at the front of the toe of the other foot.
- Then repeat for 20 steps, turn around and walk back 20 steps.
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