If movement is the yin, sensation is the yang. Try to zip up your zipper with gloves on. Its hard to even find the zipper! Part of the finding and the zipping is being able to feel. The feeling of the zipper tells you where the zipper is, how much force it will need to be pulled up, the angle of pull that is the most efficient, etc., etc.
For many survivors, its more than just losing the feeling of the zipper between their fingertips, its also the feeling of the entire arm and hand that may either be diminished or lost. If you think its hard to pull up a zipper because you can't feel the zipper, imagine how hard it is to pull up a zipper if you can't tell where your hand is! This ability to feel where the extremity is in space (without looking at it) is called proprioception. Proprioception, when intact, is a constant feedback loop.
All this information runs through your nerves (from muscles to brain and back) at about 300 feet per second. But it may all "fall on deaf ears." If the portion of the brain that "listens" to proprioception is killed by the stroke, none of that information will get through.
Is proprioception retrainable?
Anyone who reads this blog, or my book, or practically any article I've written knows that I think the whole darned system is retrainable. The research is somewhat unclear because its hard to measure proprioception. You can measure movement, but how do you measure feeling? But. There is a lot of research that says, basically, the more you move, the better your movement becomes. And, there is a general belief that better movement requires two things:
- Better control over muscles
- Better proprioception
And "use it or lose it" is in play. We know that if a survivor moves less, the area in the brain that controls that movement shrinks. But the areas in the brain involved in proprioception also shrink.
So move! A lot! Its a twofer! If you move you regain control over movement and the feeling of movement! That then gives you a wider palette of movement! And, if you work really hard (and are lucky) your movement will be integrated into your everyday! And that's the holy grail of stroke recovery!
More tips to recover proprioception here.