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July 2021


More than five senses?

Thanks to our primary school learning, most of us can easily identify the five senses, including sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. The mention of a “sixth sense” leads some of us to ponder the supernatural, as famously portrayed by Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment in the Hollywood blockbuster by M. Night Shyamalan. Nevertheless, many of us are unaware that more than five senses help our brains and bodies process sensory information and interpret the world around us.

What is the “sixth sense”?

The sixth sense is known as “proprioception” [pro-pree-o-ception]. Doctor Karen Joan Suetterlin (National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery) and Professor Avan Aihie Sayer (Director of the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre), report (2014) that proprioception helps us interact with our environment by providing a sense of where our body is positioned in space. Activities such as taking a sip of tea with your eyes closed, or turning a page without looking at the book, rely on proprioception.

In 1826 Scottish physiologist Sir Charles Bell first identified connections between the brain and the movement of our limbs and in 1906 neurophysiologist Sir Charles Sherrington first used the term “proprioception” to describe these connections (Han et al., 2016). At first, it was believed these connections occurred in the muscles, tendons, and joints. However, evolving scientific knowledge has enhanced our understanding of how proprioception works to include response to stimulus (from sensory input), processing by the brain and physical output (Suetterlin & Sayer, 2014).

Our sense of position and movement in space includes four key aspects; the sense of position of our joints, our sense of movement (or kinesthesia), our sense of force (including tension, effort, or heaviness) and our sense of changing velocity (Agers et al., 2019).

Proprioception and our health & wellbeing

Suetterlin and Sayer (2014) report that our proprioception and specifically, our sense of joint position tends to be strongest in childhood and the teenage years, then gradually declines after young adulthood (although some studies point to the contrary). They highlight that impaired proprioception can have a severe impact on motor coordination, our posture, our ability to regulate the force we use when executing movements and can contribute to increased falls, particularly as we age.

How can we enhance our “sixth sense”?

There are many documented ways to improve our proprioception (this list is by no means exhaustive). Firstly, Suetterlin and Sayer (2014) note posture training and Tai Chi can have positive benefits for proprioception. Secondly, Andrea Salzman who holds a master’s degree in physical therapy, maintains that a combination of active movement and balance training alongside passive movement training can be helpful (Salzman, 2017). With active movement training you move your own limbs, whereas with passive movement training, limbs are moved by an outside force (a machine). Suetterlin and Sayer (2014) describe exciting new avenues of therapy which use movement training alongside cognitive training, in an effort to train our brains to cope with new sensory information in new environments.
Contributor: Kelly Radka


Ager, A.L., Borms, D., Deschepper, L., Dhooghe, R., Dijkhuis, J., Roy, J-S., & Cools, A. (2020). Proprioception: How is it affected by shoulder pain? A systematic review. Journal of Hand Therapy, 33(4), 507-516. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jht.2019.06.002

Han, J., Waddington, G., Adams, R., Anson, J., & Liu, Y. (2016). Assessing proprioception: A critical review of methods. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 5(1), 80-90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2014.10.004

Salzman, A. (2017). Five evidence-based ways to hone proprioception. Ausmed. https://www.ausmed.co.nz/cpd/articles/proprioception-training

Suetterlin, K.J., & Sayer, A.A. (2014). Proprioception: Where are we now? A commentary on clinical assessment, changes across the life course, functional implications and future interventions. Age and Ageing, 43(3), 313-318. doi: 10.1093/ageing/aft174

My comment:

I see Ortho-Bionomy as a bridge between conscious and subconscious tracing mechanisms, enabling us to maintain our current state of being, or after experiencing a surgery, injury, or trauma or having chronic conditions.

Our body, the anatomy and physiology are very complex which has evolved over time. We have always been curious by its complexity. Nowadays scientists are able to explain complex processes by discovering new facts such as proprioception. These facts are helping us to better understand how our body works, and which mechanisms in particular play a role in one or another physical event. The importance of understanding our body’s complexity becomes even more important when we suddenly or gradually lose different physical abilities.

I would like to invite you on a little discovery with me. In talks that I give to clubs and groups I briefly mention the terminology “proprioception”. In this newsletter I will go a little deeper and give you a better understanding of how proprioception occurs in our daily life and why Ortho-Bionomy works to improve it.

Alan Fogel, a professor of psychology, defines proprioception as the “psychology of self-awareness”.


Ortho-Bionomy works with proprioceptive reflexes. These reflexes are governed by how we feel in general – including being aware of things like having a full bladder – our 5 senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste, as well as our sense of physical awareness.

Did you know we have over 600,000 sensory receptors in the skin alone?! Our body is constantly receiving information through sensory receptors. The amazing thing for me is that all this incoming information is being processed in the brain whether we are awake or asleep, whether we are conscious or unconscious in any particular moment. All this incoming data needs to be received, processed, interpreted and responded to.

Proprioception works to maintain our physical balance (equilibrium) and homeostasis (the self-regulating blood and lymphatic flow in the body).

In summary, Ortho-Bionomy works with proprioceptive reflexes by stimulating the brain to reconnect with the body; to re-calibrate, re-organise and re-balance; reminding the body how to regain its ability to function at its best. For this to occur it is essential that as your OB practitioner I create an environment that is safe and comfortable for us both.

When a client is feeling relaxed, safe and comfortable they are more aware of what they are feeling during the session therefore more likely to gain the most benefit from it.

Creating this environment is crucial to the success of any session and is my number one priority before we begin.

J. Fast

November 2020

Topic this month is Neuroplasticity

What is neuroplasticity? Basically, neuroplasticity is the capacity of our brain to adapt when encountering new experiences. Did you know that our brains can “reprogram” themselves?

I believe we are connected to and influenced by everything at the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. At times these connections can feel magical.

Synthia Satkuna, a Canadian postgraduate student in psychology and writer, reports that this ability of the brain to “reprogram itself” (neuroplasticity) depends on interaction between our genes and our environment. Major changes in our brain’s ability to adapt occur during childhood, puberty, when learning new skills/knowledge, following trauma or injury and during cognitive decline (as may occur with age).

Satkuna states that trauma can have a profound impact on our brain’s neuroplasticity. In other words, trauma or injury can cause changes in our brain’s ability to adapt or respond appropriately. Different areas of the brain can be affected by trauma, which can lead to different outcomes. Satkuna provides some interesting and simplified examples of these outcomes. For instance, if the Prefrontal Cortex of the brain is affected by the trauma, we may not be able to think analytically. If the Anterior Cingulate Cortex is impacted, we may be unable to control our emotions, whereas if the Amygdala is affected by trauma or injury we may be unable to regulate our fear.

So the question remains, if we cannot avoid trauma or injury altogether, how can we minimise their impact on us? Satkuna suggests having supportive family and friends around you & trying to avoid relationships which may be causing stress or trauma. Hand in hand with this, is awareness of your “triggers”; these might be people, places or contexts.

Satkuna maintains it is important to acknowledge your feelings when experiencing trauma. As such, mindfulness training and therapy or support groups may help. It can be very useful to have the perspective of a third and “neutral” party. Further, as you seek to mitigate the impact of trauma, it may help to control your exposure to it in the media. If possible, try activities to distract yourself from stressors such as sports, hobbies or volunteer work. In the case of trauma in children, it is best to seek support based on advice from their physician, social worker or therapist.
Contributor: Kelly Radka

Satkuna, S. (2020, August 7). Our brains are neuroplastic. Trauma ruins it. [Online Article]. Medium. https://medium.com/preoccupy-negative-thoughts/our-brains-are-neuroplastic-trauma-ruins-it-4b8cba734367

My comment:

For me the importance of this article, written by Synthia Satkuna, is the complexity of our brain. We need to maintain a sense of self-awareness in order to effectively manage our responses to events and experiences. Questions to ask ourself, that may help to achieve enhanced self-awareness, might be:

What do I feel when I am upset? Where is this specific feeling taking place in my body? How can I access or identify what I feel? How can I describe what I feel? How does it change my mood, body posture, or tension in my muscles? Is my body tension after an incident/episode/occurrence affecting my behaviour, and if so, how? What support resources do I have? How can I access my support resources? Do I need help? When do I need help?

Better education leads to better understanding of how our body works. We may gain better understanding from our family and friends or by accessing a broader support via physicians, social workers or therapists. We can reach out to these sources to improve and maintain our health or support our well-being.

As a practitioner of Ortho-Bionomy I see this practice as important basic work which ideally starts as soon as possible after the experience of an injury, surgery, trauma, giving birth etc. Bessel Van Der Kolk, in his book “The Body Keeps Score”, brilliantly describes how the body remembers tension, memories, actions, interactions, incidents and experiences. When working with a client I can feel this. It confirms to me the importance of each one of us being more aware of how and what we are feeling on the ‘inside’ in order to respond most effectively to what is happening in our ‘outside’ world.

Once we are able to achieve this greater awareness we are in a stronger position to build new memories and pathways as described in Synthia Satkuna’s article on neuroplasticity.

J. Fast