We typically hear about our smell, hearing, taste, sight, touch senses - but have you ever heard of proprioception? The proprioceptive system lets our body know where our body parts are positioned in relation to the rest of our body as well as where they are within a space. This information tells us the timing of our movements and the amount of force. This allows us to have coordinated movements without having to visually monitor our actions.
For example, imagine you are sitting at a desk right now. Did you ever wonder how you are able to get a visual picture of where your legs were? Or if your feet were touching the ground? Or if your legs were also touching other aspects of the ground, the table or chair? This is due to our proprioceptive system, isn’t that amazing! When writing, our proprioceptive system provides feedback allowing appropriate pencil pressure and directing writing movements or when getting dressed. It allows us to know exactly where our arm is in relation to our body without having to look.
Our receptors within our ligaments and muscles at the joints send information to this system to help us be aware of where our body parts are within space. Our proprioceptive system also helps us be aware of the rate of speed of our movement as well as the force. Did you ever wonder how we know how firm to hold a glass? Or how much force we need to throw a ball ? This is thanks to our proprioceptive system!
Proprioceptive input is important for developing good body awareness and effective motor planning and coordination. As babies, this system assists us to be able to lift our heads and upper body to eventually be able to roll to one side. This development of postural stability allows us to be able to sit up and eventually crawl, stand up and walk. Proprioceptive difficulties can present as poor body awareness, challenges with grading force, poor coordination in tasks such as throwing a ball or using cutlery. It can also contribute to motor planning difficulties and appearing clumsy when moving around.
Now I’ve got your mind thinking about proprioception its time for you to try some activities.
Some great movements that activate our proprioceptive system include:
Wall push ups: this activity is great for also strengthening your upper body and also preparing your hands for handwriting.
Wheelbarrow Walk: this also a great partner activity. This activity is great for improving upper body strength and shoulder stability.
Pushing/pulling: for activating the upper body and core
Blowing Bubble: proprioceptive input for the mouth and face.
Trampoline: great for movement and understanding where the body is in space.
Animal Walks: such as bear walk, duck walk, kangaroo hops, crab and penguin walks activate the proprioceptive system.
Happy propriocepting !