Everyone knows someone who is a bit of a klutz. But often, there is a reason behind someone being naturally clumsy. It all comes down to what we call proprioception.
What is proprioception?
To put it simply, proprioception is a fancy way of describing where your brain perceives your body to be in space. If you have good proprioception, your brain knows that your arms and legs are where they are.
But if you have issues with proprioception, your brain might think that you’re a little more to the left or right of where you actually are. This is where it’s common for people to do things like walk into doorframes, stub their toe or miss a step.
Some people can be born with a reduced sense of proprioception, particularly if they have neurological conditions such as autism. Others may have proprioceptive issues because of hypermobile joints. Sometimes, proprioception of a particular body part can be reduced through injury, such as a dislocation.
What are signs of proprioception issues?
There are some common signs of proprioception issues, including:
It can also come with other signs, depending on the cause. Proprioceptive issues will come with sensory signs in people with autism. Hypermobile people will often experience more injuries such as rolled ankles because they have more flexible joints than most people.
Have you ever noticed that if you have an injury, you will be more likely to bump that injured limb or area? Thats because that area is where the misinformation is coming from - for example, I cut my finger a few weeks back, and managed to bump it on something on at least 3 different occasions that day! My general awareness of that finger was raised, but my ability to hone in on the location-specific proprioception was decreased due to injury.
How can I fix my proprioception?
The good news is, you can work on your proprioception and reduce the clumsiness. Proprioception is influenced by information from your nervous system and your balance. Here are some ways to retrain your brain and increase body awareness.
Move your body
A lot of people will avoid exercise because they think they are clumsy. But the more that you move your body, the more chances your brain gets to correct itself. So don’t avoid exercise – just stick to gentler options while you retrain your brain.
Retrain your balance
There are specific exercises that can challenge proprioception and retrain the brain. Stability and balance exercises are the most effective. These start with very simple and supported movements, then increase in difficulty as your proprioception adapts. For example, you might stand on one leg with your eyes open. Once you can do that easily, movements of your raised leg can be included which will challenge your balance. If that becomes easy, you can try it with your eyes closed, or add a wobble cushion or balance board.
Exercises will need to be tailored to your specific proprioceptive needs. As you can see from the example above, there are many stages of these exercises that progress to harder and more challenging movements as your proprioception enhances.
Neurons that Fire Together, Wire Together
Have you heard this phrase before? The brain loves short cuts, so movements, actions, thoughts and sensations that are often felt together can become neurally linked. We can use this to our advantage by using exercises and movements in a way that can "rewire" the proprioception of a joint so it relearns its movement or activation patterns.
Using tape can help to retrain your proprioception in conjunction with stability exercises. It helps to indicate where the body part is because the tape is slightly stretched on your skin for a number of days - your brain gets a consistent signal from the sensation receptors on the skin saying "Hey! Here I am!".
Taping can also help with holding the joint or body part where it should be, preventing issues such as hunching or rolling of the shoulders. It’s best to get taping done by a qualified practitioner who can tape you correctly. This is why I offer taping sessions for my clients who need re-taping between appointments.
Do you want to work on retraining your brain and increasing your proprioception? We can put together a personalised management plan to help.
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The human body is a confusing thing! Some things that don’t seem that concerning to you might be a warning sign for your practitioner. It can be difficult to tell what just needs a heat pack or a cup of tea, what needs a practitioner and what needs an emergency room visit!
What is meant by the term "red flag"? Its a sign or symptom that can indicate the possibility of a serious medical condition that may be dangerous if left unchecked.
So today I will discuss some of the most common red flag signs and symptoms I see as a myotherapist. If you are experiencing these types of symptoms, its always safest to check in with your GP first.
This might seem a little obvious. But sudden, severe pain is always a red flag, even if you think you know the cause. If it causes nausea, vomiting or loss of consciousness, you need to seek medical attention, stat.
Night Time Pain That Wakes You Up
Pain that wakes you up, stops you from falling asleep, or doesn't ease with rest is an indicator that something is not right. It can be associated with infection, inflammation, abdominal aortic aneurysm and cancer.
Sudden Changes In Bladder/Bowel Control
In myotherapy terms, this is a very serious red flag. Although there can be more benign reasons for a change in bladder or bowel control, it could be a sign of serious nerve or spinal damage. Seek out your GP asap.
Dizziness & Fainting Spells
There can be may reasons why you experience dizziness and fainting. Some can be as simple as low blood pressure. But some can be a warning sign of something nastier. If you lose consciousness completely, then you need to seek immediate medical attention. For dizzy spells, book in to see your GP for a general checkup.
Burning Soles Of Feet
It seems like the least significant of the listed red flags. But this one can be just as serious. Burning soles can be a sign of nerve dysfunction in the legs, spine or feet. But it can also be a warning sign for deep vein thrombosis – a blood clot that occurs in a vein. If DVT is not treated, it can be fatal. So don’t hesitate to get a medical check-up straight away.
Lower-Mid Back Pain Plus Altered Urination
This might seem like an unusual combination of symptoms. But it can involve serious kidney involvement – from a kidney infection to kidney disease and even kidney failure. If your lower-mid back pain is still lingering after a treatment, its worth considering that it may be kidney related. If in doubt, get some tests done to check your kidney function, its always better to check it out than leave it to progress!
Chest Pain & Shortness Of Breath
It’s not just the dramatic heart-clutching Hollywood-style chest pain that is a red flag. Any unexpected chest pain is a concern, whether it feels obviously muscular or deeper into the chest. Difficulty breathing can also be a major concern – after all, we need enough oxygen to function! For mild cases, you can seek your GP’s attention immediately. But if in doubt, call 000 – better to be safe than sorry.
We all get headaches from time to time. But severe headaches can be a sign of issues including hormone imbalances, nerve dysfunction or even brain tumours. The more severe the headache, the sooner you should seek medical attention. Even if you are used to having migraines, it is still a red flag to get suddenly what feels like the worst headache you will ever experience. Feeling confused, running a fever, vomiting and numbness associated with a headache means you need to seek help immediately.
Sudden Changes In Vision
Seeing is a pretty important part of surviving in today’s world. But if there are sudden changes to your vision such as blurriness, double vision or loss of vision (even temporarily), it can mean that something is impairing the function of your eyes or your brain. Look out for co-existing symptoms along with vision changes - like headache, dizziness, or nausea.
If you are experiencing any changes in vision, please do not drive anywhere, even to seek medical help. Order an Uber or a cab, ask a friend for a lift, or if all else fails, call an ambulance or book a home visit with a GP.
Muscle weakness when you have worked out or numbness when you’ve been sitting on your foot is one thing. But if you experience unexpected weakness, numbness or inability to move any body part, it’s a massive red flag. This shows that your nerves are not functioning properly or your nervous system isn’t getting the message.
If any area of your body feels numb, this is a sign of nerve involvement. Numb can mean different things to different people, but usually people describe it to me as being like pins and needles, a bit tingly, feeling "different" or a true numbness of complete loss of feeling. The most common areas to have this numbness is in the arms and legs, and usually it starts at the fingers and toes. This is a kind of red flag that your myotherapist may be able to help you out with, although you may still need to see your GP or your Chiropractor if any scans are required or if structural treatment is needed.
If you experience any of these symptoms, your first stop should be your GP. If you come in to see me and we can't clear these red flag symptoms, I might not be able to treat you. But once you’ve got the all-clear, I’m happy to help with any musculoskeletal symptoms. To book in a session, head here.
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