Proprioception and Balance Exercises

Balance is vital for your injury prevention and optimising performance. Read this to find out why!

So what are proprioception and balance, and why are they so important?

Proprioception is your body’s awareness of its’ position and movement. It uses the information gained from sensory organs in your muscles and joints, as well as your inner ear, and transmits this information back through your central nervous system to your brain. While you’re still busy throwing, or catching, or kicking a ball during your chosen sport, your body is using the information gained to keep you upright.

This information can then be further process to make sure you know where your arm or your leg, or even where one of your fingers to keep you playing your sport at a high level. The proprioception system then enables you to have exceptional balance by continuing to feed this information into your brain while you’re being knocked or bumped about, or simply as you jump in the air.

Improving both your balance and proprioception can aid in reducing injury risk, particularly in regards to ankle and knee joints. These joints are particularly vulnerable as they can become caught underneath your hips or at awkward angles and subsequently injured. Exercises to improve proprioception can be performed for many other joints including the shoulder, elbow or even the joints in the hands. Given your choice of sport, your exercises will vary according to your own specific required. For example, a soccer player is unlikely to require the same programming as a tennis player that needs constant feedback from the arm to enable them to hit the ball accurately.

An oft-missed part of the injury rehabilitation process is balance and proprioception. A “simple” ankle injury will often be glossed over by a player once their pain reduces and their range of movement of the joint recovers. Given the feedback that gets sent to the brain is gained from the structures within ligaments as well as, we need to ensure these are part of any rehabilitation program.

So what are the right exercises for me?

Let’s take that example of the sprained ankle. If you’ve recently, or ever, injured an ankle try an experiment.

Try standing on one leg. Then try the other leg. Does it feel the same? Chances are, probably not! So for you, this might be where you begin your rehab exercises.

If that feels too easy, try completing the same exercise with your eyes closed. More difficult, right?

Now try standing on one leg and throw a tennis ball against the wall in front of you and try and catch it again without losing your balance. All of a sudden these can be significant challenges for the body and will manifest themselves at your “weakest” point – ie your sprained ankle. These challenges can quickly become your ongoing therapeutic exercises.

Other items that you might have lying around the house to challenge your balance may be a wobble board, a mini trampoline, or even something as simple as a folded up towel can provide an unstable surface to challenge your balance.

Need help as a tennis player? Try catching a ball only bending your elbow.

Can’t kick a football on your opposite leg? Try a stationary kick standing on your “good” leg! The possibilities are endless on how you can challenge and therefore improve your proprioception and balance – your only limit is your imagination. So get creative with your movements, but if you find you’re getting sore during the exercises, check in with one of our physiotherapists to get some skilled guidance.  

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Proprioception and Balance Exercises