by Dr. Nicole
Everyone knows that we have five senses, right? This is something we are taught at an early age. The thing is, we have more than just five, it is actually closer to 21! These senses are the ones that keep things running smoothly. We don’t even notice them unless they stop working like they should. One example of these senses is proprioception. This is important to how we move throughout the day. It the sense that tells us where our body is in the world. If you put your hand behind your back and wiggle your fingers you KNOW that you are wiggling your fingers because of proprioception. You don’t see it, you feel it. This sense is also what lets us walk down the stairs at night. It lets our brain talk to our muscles to anticipate the next step. Have you ever been walking down the stairs and thought there was another step coming, but there wasn’t and you stumbled slightly? That is balance misfiring, triggered by proprioception.
As we age, our balance and flexibility are two things that sneak away. Once they start to slip, it is difficult to recover. That is why it is important for us to check, and occasionally recheck, all the people that come into the office to make sure we are seeing improvement. Our balance can get worse from injuries like sprained ankles or even TMJ issues. This is due to a concentration of proprioceptive nerves in the ankle and jaw. We have proprioceptive nerves all over our body, in all of the joints, but there are larger bundles of them in the jaw or TMJ area and in the ankles.
Our balance can also get worse when we aren’t moving correctly. For instance, if your hip hurts just a little bit your brain changes how you walk so the pain isn’t as bad. This helps the pain but then you aren’t moving in an even and balanced way. The brain shifts your weight from being balanced to take pressure off the painful side. In turn, that adds pressure to the non-painful side. For the time being you feel better, but if you continue to move unbalanced, the other side gets more wear and tear. That side can then start to develop arthritis and then you end up with pain everywhere!
For these reasons, pain is not always a good indicator of how well we are. We want to check all of the different parts of the nervous system to make sure we are feeling, functioning, and moving our best. If you aren’t experiencing pain but are finding that you are clumsier than you used to be, if you need the lights on to walk down the stairs, or have a tendency to trip on nothing, then it would be a good idea to come in and get rechecked. We can evaluate your balance and realign you. We even have balance homework to go over, to keep you moving well for years to come!