Have you ever sprained your ankle? Did you notice afterwards that the ankle did not feel stable under you, that it sometimes “wave way”, even after it stopped hurting? Maybe you found that you kept spraining the same ankle, over and over, through your life.
When you sprained your ankle, you also damaged its ability to protect itself. This protection system is called proprioception (or kinesthetic awareness). Proprioception is how your body “knows” where your limbs are, without looking.
By sensing your ankle's exact position at all times, your brain coordinates the muscles around the ankle to make sure that the joint is always “snugged-up” and secure – never slack. A joint without muscular support, even for an instant, is highly susceptible to injury. (This is true for ALL joints – not just ankles).
This “awareness” of joint position is accomplished by thousands of small receptors in muscles & joints, all over your body. These receptors keep track of how much tension is on a muscle, how fast the muscle is moving, and what position the joint is in.
If your proprioceptive system is damaged (like in a sprain), it may start to give your brain the wrong information about your joints. Your brain becomes confused about what position your limbs are in, and can no longer coordinate safe movement.
Translation: your ankle feels wobbly & unstable. And then you may sprain the ankle again.
But, here's the good news: Proprioception is learnable.
In fact, we use proprioceptive training in all of our rehab programs. If you've been a patient of ours, you know what I'm talking about. Proprioceptive exercises are complex, controlled movements that very often involve a balance challenge. Although we use these exercises to help heal injured tissue during rehab, incorporating these same exercises into your own personal workout program can act as powerful protection for your joints. Almost like surrounding your joints with Kevlar.
If you keep injuring the same joint over and over again, do not let it keep happening – take action. Each new injury may further weakened the joint and leave you susceptible to more severe injuries. A qualified rehab specialist can help you rebuild your “built-in” joint support system so you can start healing and get back to your life.
“Bullet-proofing” your joints can be easier than you think!
-Daniel Bockmann, DC