I think I'm losing sensation in my arm. When I raise my arms up overhead, I can feel my left arm moving in a nice smooth arc of motion. But when I close my eyes and try to make the right arm move to the same spot as the left arm, I'm way off. I know it sounds like I'm crazy to even be checking this sort of thing, but I had physical therapy for a shoulder problem last month and I don't think I'm normal yet. Should I go back?
The joint's sense of its own position as it moves through space is called joint proprioception. We all rely on proprioception to stabilize the shoulder joint and provide equal movement from one side to the other. Physical therapists actually test patients' proprioception by blindfolding the patient (or having the patient close the eyes), moving one arm or body part to a certain spot, and then asking the patient to move the other arm to the exact same spot.
The ability to come within millimeters of the same position from side to side is a visible sign of good proprioception. Several patterns of movement are tested to get an idea of overall joint proprioception for each body part (e.g., finger, wrist, elbow, shoulder). Fatigue from overuse and injury from repetitive motion are common causes of altered (decreased) proprioception.
A follow-up visit with your therapist may be needed but first, you might just give your therapist a phone call and relay your concerns to him or her. This may be something that was addressed during therapy without you being aware of it directly. Or it could be something that you are now ready to incorporate additional rehab to restore full proprioception. It may depend on the type of injury you had and expectations for full recovery.
Michael M. Reinold, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS, and Thomas J. Gill, MD. Current Concepts in the Evaluation and Treatment of the Shoulder in Overhead Throwing Athletes: Part 1: Physical Characteristics and Clinical Examination. In Sports Health. January-February 2010. Vol. 2. No. 1. Pp. 39-50.
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