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Proprioception – How Does Your Body Balance?

Ever wonder what’s going on when you lose your balance? Do you ever feel unsteady on your feet?

Proprioception is how our body knows where it is in space!

Our brain uses 3 separate pathways to know what position we are in:

  • Visual pathway – our EYES provide visual input regarding where we are and what we are doing
  • Auditory pathway – our EARS have little crystals housed in 3 small canals that move around when we change position this tells our brain if we are standing up or lying down
  • Proprioceptive nerve pathway – our MUSCLES, JOINTS and CONNECTIVE TISSUE have little proprioceptors in them that tell our brain when we have changed position or moved in space – this is known as our JOINT POSITION SENSE

“But what does proprioception have to do with ME, Katie?”

“Well, why don’t you try the balance test below and find out!”

Proprioception and Balance

Because our brains receive proprioceptive input from all 3 pathways sometimes we don’t realise when we have a problem.

A simple way to test YOUR OWN proprioception is through a BALANCE TEST!

In the photo to the right, Katie is standing on her LEFT leg and seems to be balancing perfectly fine…with her eyes open. In this position she is using ALL 3 pathways – EYES, EARS and her JOINT POSITION SENSE – to remain balanced.

Watch what happens when Katie closes her eyes!

She is relying on her EARS and JOINT POSITION SENSE to stay balanced. Now that she no longer has the visual input it is much more difficult to keep her balance!

Let’s try her RIGHT leg and see if her balance is the same!

But WHY is there such a difference of her balance between Katie’s LEFT and RIGHT legs? 

Our proprioception and balance can be affected by many things including:

  • Imbalanced muscles
  • Misaligned joints
  • Change in biomechanics
  • Past injuries
  • scar tissue
  • Malposition of the crystals in our ear canals
  • Vision disturbances or changes
  • Alcohol*
  • Some medications*

Katie INJURED her left ankle while running about a week ago which has disturbed her proprioception causing her to have difficulty balancing on her LEFT ankle!

Balance is extremely important especially as we age. While having a topple as a child or young adult can lead to a sore bum or bruised thigh, they generally bounce right back up or if more serious, will have a fairly quick recovery. But as we age, our reaction time gets slower causing us to fall harder leading to more serious injuries such as hip fractures.  Our body’s capability to heal itself becomes less efficient causing our recovery time to take much longer.

Luckily, there are preventative measures we can take to strengthen our proprioceptive and balance skills!

Chiropractors are able to assess and treat all the items on the list above! Come in and find out how we can help you improve your proprioception and balance!

Call (02) 9949-3017 or book online at www.handsonhealthcare.com.au for your next appointment!

* If you are finding your balance affected by alcohol, medications or other substances please contact your medical doctor for full assessment and advice.


April 2, 2018
Katie MacRae