Proprioceptive Training: Small Nerve Stimulation

Published on: 2018/08/01

Dr. Emily Splichal


If you do a Google image search for these two words you will get hundreds of pictures demonstrating balance exercises on unstable surfaces.

Despite the popularity of these unstable surfaces how effective are they for improving balance or proprioception? Surprisingly, not as good as their manufacturers would like us to believe.

Interest Category

Proprioceptive training, nerve stimulation, proprioceptors, healthcare

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What is proprioception and why is it important?

The body receives information from receptors in muscles, skin, and joints, transfers these inputs to the brain through the nervous system. This helps the body to sense itself. The ability of the body to sense itself in the space is called as proprioception. Proprioceptors are the sensory receptors that provide inputs to the brain about our body’s position. Proprioception is very important for coordination, body awareness, posture, speech, focus and also self-regulation.

When the joints get injured the body’s proprioceptors may be impaired. Likewise, children with autism, ADHD, and sensory processing disorders may not be able to process the proprioceptive inputs.

Proprioceptive training

For people with joint injuries, balance exercises can help the body to control the movement or position of the joint. Generally, proprioceptive training is essential for athletes, elderly, children with the above-mentioned difficulties, people with neurological conditions, and individuals with poor motor planning skills. Proprioception training can make a difference for these individuals in their daily activities. Proprioceptive training includes:

  1. Balancing exercises – Exercises with balance board helps to improve proprioception. The body’s ability to use muscles in order to balance on the board gets stronger,
  2. Exercises with eyes closed – these exercises improve the communication between the muscles and the brain. The body uses the inputs from the muscles and performs activities without the help of the eyes.
  3. Strengthening exercises – These exercises help to strengthen the muscles, which helps the brain to understand a movement and hold it for a longer time.
  4. Plyometric movements and drills – this improves the kinesthetic awareness of the body. For example: if you have to do a box jump, to know how high to jump as to not clip the foot requires kinesthetic awareness.

Three types of proprioceptors

The human body has many proprioceptors. Muscle spindle, the Golgi tendon organ, and the Pacinian corpuscle are the three proprioceptors connected to the musculoskeletal system.

Pacinian corpuscle – It is one of the four main receptors found in the skin. Pacinian corpuscle is the nerve endings in the skin which is responsible for sensitivity.

Muscle spindle – The changes in the muscle length, for example when it is stretched, it triggers specific actions. The muscle spindle is a proprioceptor which provides information about the changes in muscle length.

Golgi tendon organ – The changes in the muscle tension, when muscle contracts or pulled tight, Golgi tendon organ provides information to the brain to assist the body to perform an action.

Read more – Dr. Emily Splichal discusses the importance of small nerve stimulation and the future of proprioceptive training.