Using our bodies for balance: Spidey Sense

Using our bodies for balance: Our Spidey Sense at Work.

            So far, we have talked about balance, and the roles our eyes and head work to keep us steady. We can see by now; that as we walk our eyes are used to orient ourselves to our surroundings.  Further, we understand that synergy must occur between the eyes and head to avoid neurological issues e.g. dizziness, vertigo, diplopia (double vision).

 These roles are essential concepts to remember, yet what of the rest of the body?  There must be a system that involves the rest of the body, right? Well, Mrs. Johnson, if that is your last name, how crazy is it that I am talking to you right now haha! It is a good question and is the reason for this post today.  

To understand, we must focus our attention on the brain, and specifically how it assimilates information from our limbs, trunk muscles, and whole-body sensations.  To answer, we can look at our “Friendly Neighborhood Spider Man” and his Spidey Sense. Believe it or not, we also have our own type of Spidey Sense.   

If you have ever watched a Spiderman movie, if not please stop reading this and do so immediately, you should be familiar with Peter Parker’s “spidey sense” going off alerting of trouble. Parker’s “spidey sense” actively lets him know about impending personal harm (Give me 50 feet!) or community danger. Believe it or not, our bodies are doing this consistently throughout the day; this is what we call proprioceptive sensation(s). 

HAIR RAISING

Proprioception registers what is going on when we move our muscles/ joints and how we orientate ourselves to our surroundings. When we move our bodies, our brains possess the ability to know exactly where our bodies are in space, and how close we are to what is around us. Our brains are then able to decide the appropriate action or reaction.  *All this without having to have a radioactive spider bite! *

FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SITIUATIONS

When we first wake up, most of us throw the covers off, we reluctantly put our feet on the floor, and then head to the shower and/or kitchen for coffee. This seems like an easy thing to do, but from waking up to making coffee our brains are working to accomplish this. Our “spidey-sense” is on 24/7 to allow us to know when walking to avoid stepping on anything on the floor, and even keeps us from rolling out of the bed on to the floor. (At least when not drunk…that’s another story)

Our “Spidey Sense” also aids by keeping us from veering towards a door frame when walking. It does so by maintaining awareness of our muscles’ and joints’ position in space which allows us to pass through safely.  In addition, it is a life saver when getting into the shower by avoiding the jamming of our foot or fingers on the edge of the shower. Another cool example is for us caffeine addicts by granting us the ability to make our morning coffee, half sleep, without spilling it everywhere. 

If your brain “spidey sense” becomes aware that the coffee cup is too full and we are about to spill the coffee, the brain makes immediate changes to our muscles/joints to save the coffee from spilling.

When we are moving, our muscles and joints are constantly updating our brains on where our body is in space. This can seem complicated, especially for a trivial task like drinking coffee, but this is the beauty of our brains. When our brains are working properly, we don’t notice the complexity of how “simple” something as drinking coffee is. Think about being in the gym or at home, and you are picking something up, but you misjudge how heavy that object is. Usually, 1 of 2 outcomes occurs either you think it is heavier than it really is, and you easily lift the object, or you think it is lighter than it is and pull a muscle from too much lift. 

In either outcome the brain misjudges the actual weight of the object causing an incorrect output.  Be advised the brain will try its best to correct the movement to allow us to lift it correctly and without injuring ourselves; however, when this system isn’t working properly injury may result. 

When our “Spidey Sense” isn’t working well:  

  We will notice very quickly If our “spidey sense” isn’t working correctly. This is evidenced by mishaps in lifting objects due to misjudging our strength output, or when we fall and can’t catch ourselves without avoiding injury.  Concerns arise if in our daily life when we exhibit the following consistent behaviors:

Hitting of our shoulders on the door frames
Jamming of our fingers as we reach for items 
Misjudging where our car is and hit it when parking. (No more Safe driver points)

TRY SELF LOVE

Our brain doesn’t like it when we keep injuring ourselves, so it will try its best to stop this from occurring and is feature of our Survival Instinct. As a result, we use more “slow eye” movement to track an object or increase use of our head and neck to compensate for the lack of body sensation. However, after a while, we won’t be able to do this any longer, and injuries will eventually ensue. 

Combining all 3 systems:

To aid in this we must combine all three systems. For example, when reaching for an object, we need to make sure we have proper eye movements to lock onto that target. If a target like a baseball is coming toward you there may be a need for more neck and head movement to keep track of the ball. In addition, you will need to have proper body movements to catch the ball. Oh, wait, “Spidey Sense” going off…boredom alert. Lol, we will hold this for the next topic. We will even have a video in the next post going over how our bodies combine all 3 systems and the role our balance plays. Just remember when you get that tingling or gut sensation; it may be your “spidey sense” letting you know something isn’t right, and that you need to be aware of your surroundings. Until next time!! Happy Sensing!!

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