Proprioception is your body’s sense of itself. Kind of like your computer knows what hardware is attached to it like camera, hard drive, monitor, printers, wifi, etc, your body has a special nerve system that keeps track of itself, where your arms and legs are, your eyes and ears and what they are doing. Without proprioception, you couldn’t touch your nose with your eyes closed. That’s why the police test for alcohol suspicion by having you touch your nose, stand on one leg, or walk a line slowly one foot before the other. Alcohol influences your nervous system and lost proprioception is a sure sign.
A normally functioning body relies on proprioception. In short it is your body’s sense of its position, velocity and tension. Proprioception plays a pivotal role in your upright posture and balance. Without it, you would not be able to stand, and in relation to your balance and posture, a majority of those signals come from your feet. Just notice what happens to the pressures underneath your feet when you lean forward or walk.
We already know that the proprioceptive signals can be distorted by alcohol or drugs, but what if the nerves fail, or the proper contact with the ground is lost. You’ve probably heard of diabetic neuropathy, typically the loss of feeling in the feet. It profoundly changes gait, balance and posture, it weakens muscle response and increases risk of foot and body injury.
Morton’s Foot Syndrome and the elevated first metatarsals adds yet another twist to the loss and/or distortion of the proprioceptive signals from your feet. The elevated first metatarsal will not have proper contact with the ground, so the pressure sensing signals from the inside forefoot goes off to the brain too late. That means delayed muscle action and overpronating feet – falling arches and inward leaning ankles. According to some studies, the first metatarsal and big toe do not significantly participate in weight bearing and propulsion until the last 12% of the contact gait cycle, at which time the posture is already distorted.
Proprioception is also a learning system. You have probably heard the term muscle memory, or playing by rote. That is the brain engramming a movement pattern to be repeated over and over again. It is rooted in proprioception, and everyone will have a neuromuscular reponse to missing or distorted proprioceptive signals. People walking with their feet turned out is a sign of missing signals and so is supinating, favoring the outside of your feet. Unfortunatly these corrections contribute to painful distortion and destruction throughout your body. That’s why your foot mechanics is vital.
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