Southwest Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Information Headquarters

How Injuries Affect Proprioception

Posted by Dani Livsie on Aug 1, 2011 11:26:00 AM

When you become a physical therapy patient, especially if your injury involves the lower limb, you will most likely hear the term PROPRIOCEPTION.In a nutshell, proprioception is your sense of position throughout your body.But, before we explore this exceptional phenomenon further, let me explain to you the "Nervous System 101":

*The Central Nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. We'll call it the CNS for short. It is the electrical "Command Post" for all of the functions that occur in our body. CNS

*Your nervous system works similar to a phone system, but instead of people being at each end of the phone, there are receptors or "messengers" at each end communicating through nerve "phone lines" to and from the CNS.

*Messengers from outside your CNS report IN to the Command Post about sensations, position,angle, etc. that are occurring at a specific joint or body part.

*After receiving the messages at CNS, decisions are made at the command post and orders are sent out by way of nerves,to the muscles that cross the joint where the original report came in from.

*Those orders end up causing a movement or reaction out at your upper or lower limb. This process takes place in microseconds.For this article, we will be speaking just about movement of the limbs.

So,returning back to the term Proprioception, let's move on:

There are 2 types of Proprioception:

1. The first type gives you conscious awareness of where your body and it's different parts are in relation to each other.

2. The second type is responsible for letting you feel movement and/or the rate of movement of your limbs and what goes on inside the joint(which is really the center for movement)


After surgery, injury, or in the presence of pain lasting longer than a day or two, the "circuit breakers" of the receptors called Proprioceptors can become "tripped", just like on your electrical box at home, and interrupt the messages going & from a joint. This causes decreased proprioception because that information is not getting to the CNS to help create proper movement.

Topics: health, physical therapy, injuries