Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Exercise of the Month - foot exercise series - balance and proprioception

Here is the 2nd in our series of foot exercises, last month we looked at strengthening the small (intrinsic) muscles in your foot, this month our exercises focus on proprioception: which helps with balance and performance of the muscles and joints within the foot.

What is proprioception?

The ability of your body to know where you are in space without having to look. This means that your body senses joint position and movement within joints. This ability helps in everyday movements and is important for complicated coordinated movements.

The proprioceptive system is made up of nerve receptors positioned in the muscles, joints and ligaments. These nerve receptors sense stretch and tension and pass the information to the brain for processing - this is all done on a subconscious level, which means we don't need to think about doing it - but also means that we may not be aware when it is not functioning at 100%.

If you have had an injury in your foot or lower limb, however minor, it may lead to damage of the nerve receptors and reduce the proprioception in your foot - this in turn can lead to the muscles, joints and ligaments in the foot not functioning at their full capacity and impair the information sent to the brain.

So that's the information bit out of the way - lets move on to the exercises: What we are aiming to do is retrain and refine the proprioception in the foot to better improve foot and ankle movement patterns.

First of all you can do a test to see how your proprioception is working in your feet. This is easily done by standing on one leg - when we stand on one leg there will be minute movements in the foot and ankle as it stabalises the body. Doing OK so far? Now try it with your eyes closed - taking away another sense (vision) means your body is placing more emphasis on your proprioception - this increases the difficulty. Try it on both sides, with eyes open and then closed - often there will be one side that is harder than the other, or maybe they were both difficult.

Now its time to get the proprioception firing more efficiently and strengthening your feet and ankles.

Standing on an uneven surface: 

You can do this at home by standing on a pillow or cushion - make sure you position yourself by a wall for support in case you get a bit wobbly - start by standing on both feet and as you feel more confident with your balance you can start to stand on one foot at a time - again, as in the test, start with eyes open and progress to eyes shut.

Walking on an uneven surface: 

Walking on sand in bare feet is great for proprioception - often people with recovering foot injuries really notice them when walking on sand. If you don't fancy a trip to the beach now the weather is getting colder then you can set up a little obstacle course for yourself at home - that cushion you were balancing on - get a few more, place them in a row and walk up and down them.

Going up onto tiptoes: 


This increases the difficulty as you have less surface to balance on and strengthens your ankles. What you need to be careful of when doing this exercise is that your ankles don't roll outwards (seen in picture 2) as you go up onto your toes - this can be a compensation mechanism to widen your centre of gravity (and  it means you're cheating a little bit!)

A couple of easy at home exercises to do to improve your proprioception, balance and foot and ankle strength.

If you are suffering from any foot or ankle problems that would you like us to take a look at please pop into the clinic for a free consultation or book your appointment now.
0208 563 2608

Hazel Dillon is a Chiropractor at The Octagon Chiropractic Clinic

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