How Can I Improve My Balance and Joint Proprioception and Stability after Injury?
What happens WHEN YOU INJURE YOUR JointS?
Joint injuries are very common sports injuries and usually involve the joint being stretched past its normal range of movement.
This can result in the ligaments, muscles/tendons and joint capsule being overstretched or even torn.
Hip labrum tears (acute)
Wrist or elbow hyperextension
Initially this will result in acute pain, inflammation and restricted range of movement. But with the appropriate early management, usually relative rest and some level of immobilisation, this will settle down within 2 weeks. Then over the next 4-10 weeks the ligaments, muscles/tendons and joint capsule will heal through the body’s natural healing process.
BUT, whenever there is a traumatic injury to a joint this will result in reduced strength, balance and overall stability in the joint. This leaves you at risk for reduced performance and high reinjury rate.
What SHOULD you do about joint injuries?
A progressive rehabilitation program including strength exercises to target the affected muscles and global strength exercises to support the affected area will improve strength, function and also stability.
BUT, strength exercises alone are not enough to rebuild full stability of the joint. Functional exercises focusing on balance and skills are required to improve the proprioception (balance and stability). These functional exercises and drills specific to your sport or activity are very important so you are prepared to return to your sports or activity.
What is proprioception?
Proprioception is like our body’s 6th sense that gives us an unconscious awareness of our body. Proprioreceptors are receptors in our muscles and joints all over the body that are giving the brain constant feedback and information about where our body is in space and the sensations it feels. Examples of proprioception at work include:
Touching your nose with your finger when your eyes are closed
Knowing whether feet are on soft grass or hard cement without looking
Balancing on one leg
Throwing a ball without having to look at the throwing arm
Why is proprioception important?
Proprioception is necessary for precise and fluid movements, making it essential to athletes and non-athletes alike. It allows:
A Basketball player to perform simultaneous actions without stopping to think about each one separately, such as running while dribbling a basketball
a runner to seamlessly transition from different terrain, making unconscious, minor adjustments to stay upright and maintain balance.
A netball player to land on one leg and maintain their hip knee and ankle alignment rather than over stretching or twisting and causing injury
A football player to jump up for a mark and know how high to reach their hands to catch the ball
A tennis player to change direction when returning a serve and not have to think about which direction their feet go in
Put simply, proprioception is a neuromuscular skill that allows us to do complex movements without conscious thought. Just like riding a bike or learning a musical instrument, we must practice the skill to improve it.
How do I know if I need to work on my proprioception?
Proprioception is a very diverse skill that allows us to do many movements and skills so there are many different ways of testing it based on a person's needs and requirements.
Here are some basic proprioception tests:
The single leg balance test (lower limb):
The star excursion balance test ( lower limb):
The Joint repositioning test ( upper limb):
The star excursion balance test ( upper limb):
Keep in mind there are easy baseline tests. If you do a demanding sport such as any ball sports, change of direction sports, skiing or trail running you will need to do more sport specific tests to really test out your balance and see if it's up to scratch.
How to train proprioception?
Training proprioception is similar to a progressive strength program: you start out with basic exercises focusing on simpler movements then progress into harder exercises and eventually more complex challenging and sport specific movements.
The good thing about training proprioception is that with regular practice you can get good at it quickly (Compared with a progressive strength program that takes minimum 6-12 weeks to see improvements).
Here are some basic exercises:
Star balance and aeroplane balance (lower limb)
Ball wall rolling and 4 point kneeling ball roll ( upper limb)
Double leg and single leg bosu ball jumps ( lower limb)
Plyometric push ups ( upper limb):
examples of sport specific exercises:
Can balance exercises prevent injury?
Even without injury proprioception exercises are an excellent tool for preventing injury and enhancing performance.
Adding in some sport specific exercises for 5-10 minutes a few times a week can have a great effect on your balance and coordination. This can save you valuable time off sport by preventing injury in the first place!
How can we help you?
At Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy our goal is to get you moving pain free as soon as possible.
But, we also want you to actually move better and live a healthier, more active and fulfilling life!
If your sports, fitness training or work has been wearing your body down, book in with one of our expert massage therapists so we can help you reduce your pain or stiffness.
If you are showing some signs of this condition or simply want help prevent this from happening in the future then book in with one of our highly experienced Remedial Massage Therapists today!