Proprioception and MassageJohn Stamoulos
Your body has its own genius navigation system that orients you in relation to the space around you. This awareness is known as proprioception and it is described as the ability you have that allows you to touch your nose with your index finger when your eyes are closed, balance on one foot and know where your arm is when you hold it up or put it down by your side without actually looking at it. Even if you have shoes on, you know when you are walking on a hard or soft surface because your body’s sensing system that tells you this.
The Physiology of Proprioception
Proprioception works because your body uses receptors in the skin, muscles and joints to transfer the positioning/sensing information via the nervous system to the brain.
Your body’s muscle structure has nerve endings called proprioceptors that are embedded in the muscle fibres, tendons and joints. Proprioceptors are the communication system that informs the brain about any movement of the body. They have different functions depending on where they are located in the body but they are all designed to carry information to the brain about where the body is under tension, where a joint is moving, what position it is in and what function is being carried out so that the appropriate force or the eye-hand coordination can occur for any given circumstance. When muscles are overstretched, it is the proprioceptors that communicate with the brain about the condition which then results in muscle contraction to prevent damage.
Massage and the Proprioceptors’ job
Proprioceptors send messages through the central nervous system to the brain about the sensory inputs from massage. This communication is the mechanism whereby the muscles can relax and return to a healed status. Massage uses gentle and slow stretching techniques to coax tight and contracted muscles to lengthen and relax. The gentle and slow approach gives the muscles a prolonged time to receive messages from the brain that encourage integration and adaptation of this longer more relaxed disposition for the muscles. The more input, the greater development of improved proprioception. Massage sets our proprioceptive awareness free within the body so that more balance, coordination and efficient movement can occur.