Accelerate Physical Therapy

Proprioceptive Exercising to Help Prevent Ankle and Knee Injury

An injury to the knee or ankle can lay you up for a very long time. Even if the injury doesn’t require surgery, the lingering effects of what was a seemingly minor incident can be troublesome, at best. When cold weather sets in, an old injury could leave you wondering if you have a new one.

However, there are steps you can take to lessen the risk for future injuries. While it’s not a guarantee, proprioceptive exercises for the knee and ankle can reduce the risk for severe and long-term injury.

What is Proprioception in Regard to Exercise?

Proprioception is when you can sense stimuli developing within your body when it comes to body position, motion, and even equilibrium. The goal through proprioceptive exercise is to find balance and become aware if your body part, such as a leg or arm, is lifted or not…with your eyes closed or blindfolded.

It is perhaps the most substantial influence in balance, leading to more controlled movements and even preventing injury. It works by allowing unconscious reflexing to become stable, as well as aid in protection by sustaining balance and proper posture during movement.

This form of exercise is advantageous for certain joints such as the ankle and knee, which are often strongly impacted by loss of balance, leading to potential injury. Even though proprioceptive exercising is often more difficult to calculate and measure than strength training, it’s known to reduce the risk of injury, as well as improve performance. Physical Therapists will sometimes incorporate this technique in rehabilitation to help prevent further damage to an old injury.

Keeping in Balance

An effective technique in improving knee or ankle proprioception is through balance training. This is true for both prevention and rehabilitation of an existing injury.  A popular method of this is done by balancing on an unstable object, and either attempting to stand, or perform light exercises. Challenging the muscles that stabilize the hips, knees, and ankles can be done on a wobble board or instability dome. If you have gone through any physical therapy in the past, you might have seen these objects around.

An example of exercise to increase balance would be to stand on one of the objects mentioned above, on one leg. You could also stand on both legs and perform mini-squats or knee circles. Just about any movement that requires you to maintain balance will work at improving proprioception. The potential benefits are both enhanced ability and prevention.

No Need for Expensive Equipment

In order to get optimum results in stability training, you should do a little each day. This is especially true if you are hoping to reestablish mobility and balance. However, going to the physical therapist or gym every day can be a bit daunting, in both time and cost. Fortunately, you don’t have to go anywhere to keep it up on a daily routine.

With proprioceptive exercising, it can be done at home…or anywhere, without any equipment at all. First, take your shoes off. Contrary to what your parents may have told you, there really are some benefits to going barefoot. Performing certain exercises with your shoes off will help stimulate smaller muscles within the foot, ankle, hip, and leg, all while improving coordination and balance.

Take a look at one you can easily do in the comfort of your own home:

  • Close your eyes
  • Stand on only one leg
  • Keep knee slightly bent
  • Raise the opposite knee to hip level
  • Maintain this position for as long as you are able to balance
  • Repeat with the opposite leg

At first, you might want to have a chair near you to help stabilize your position, at least until your balance improves. However, do not continue to rely on the chair, in order to get the best results. This is just one example of exercise that you can easily do at home. However, check with a physical therapist to learn more about your individual needs.

The bottom line is, improving your balance helps in reducing the risk for injury…especially if you are actively involved in sports and other physical activities. But, it can also help you tremendously in your daily activities, no matter what type of lifestyle you enjoy.