No, it’s not some bizarre party trick! If you’ve ever sprained your ankle or had a knee injury, your Physio is likely to have made you do this at some stage during your treatment. The reason for this is to retrain your proprioception. So what does this mean and why is it important?
Proprioception is defined as the ability to sense the position, location, orientation and movement of parts of your body. This ability is due to nerve impulses sent from joints, muscles and ligaments so you know where your limbs are in space without having to look.
Without proprioception, we would have to watch our feet when we’re walking. As well as obvious importance in day-to-day activities, proprioception is especially important in complicated sporting movements where coordination is essential.
Following injury to joints and ligaments, such as rolling your ankle, the receptors that send these nerve impulses are damaged. As a consequence, there will be a deficit in the proprioceptive ability at that joint. In an ankle, for example, this will affect your balance and ability to walk on uneven surfaces. If you return to sport or usual activity without having retrained your proprioception. this joint is more prone to recurrent injury.
This is why doing proprioceptive or balance exercises should begin as early as possible in your rehabilitation. These exercises will begin at a simple level of just standing on one leg, then the difficulty is increased by introducing movement of other body parts, closing eyes, then eventually the addition of moving surfaces such as a wobble board or gym ball.