How To Use The Foam Roller For Balance (Proprioception)
IntroductionAs we have previously suggested in our article on core stability, the foam roller has many uses in fitness and rehabilitation. Whilst self myofascial release may be its primary use, balance exercises can be performed on the roller as a medium for instability. These balance, or proprioception as it is sometimes known, exercises are incredibly important for both rehabilitation and prevention of sports related injuries. Therefore, this article will discuss some background information on balance and proprioception, the relevant research and as usual the most appropriate foam roller exercises.
What Is Proprioception?Well, that may be a difficult question to answer. But technically it is:
"A specialised variation of the sensory modality of touch that encompasses the sensation of joint movement (kinesthesia) and joint position (joint position sense)." (Lephart et al., 1997)
Essentially, this means that there are sensors in the skin, ligaments, joints, etc that feed information to the brain about where the body is in space. This is essential for us to maintain our balance.
So, Why Should We Care About Balance (Or Proprioception)?
Sports medicine research has suggested that achieving functional and sport-specific activities after musculoskeletal trauma and rehabilitation can be enhanced significantly if proprioception is addressed and instituted early in the treatment program (Lephart et al., 1997). So, that is some pretty heavy stuff. However, the suggestion is that your outcomes or results from injury rehabilitation will be poorer if you do not include early balance training and proprioception exercises.Reduced proprioception and reduced balance have been associated with the many injuries, including:
- Knee Injuries - including ligament injuries (Barrack et al., 1989)
- Ankle Injuries - including ligaments and chronic ankle instability (Garn & Newton, 1988)
- Shoulder Injuries - including instability and post-surgery (Smith & Brunolli, 1989).
- Low Back Injuries (Parkhurst and Burnett, 1994).
What Exercises Should I Do?There are many variations and different types of proprioception and balance foam roller exercises. You can be creative with what you do, however, here are a few video examples: Suitable For Lower Back Injuries Suitable For Lower Limb Proprioception and Balance
What Type Will Be Most Useful?Given that you are going to require a medium to large sized unstable surface the best product for this condition would be:
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Smith RL, Brunolli J. Shoulder kinesthesia after shoulder dislocation. Phys Ther 69 106-112, 1989