The somatosensory system refers to the faculty of bodily perception. These sensory systems affect our balance. They include: skin senses (touch) and proprioception (knowing where our body is in space without looking.) As we age this system begins to decline in function. Exercises that stimulate the somatosensory system are important because we depend on our sensory receptors to help us balance and help us react to changes in our environment. They are especially beneficial for those managing peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, and arthritis. Here are some great exercises to help build sensory perception on the soles of the feet.
Somatosensory Balance Exercise #1 Stocking-Foot Grip Exercise
How to: With shoes off, practice grabbing and lifting a small ball with the toes (or substitute a wadded-up piece of paper, pencil or other available item such as a wash cloth.
Somatosensory Balance Exercise #2 Under the Foot Roll Exercise
How to: Place a small ball on the ground. With shoes off, roll the ball in circles under the base of the foot. Reverse the circling motion and change feet. Make sure you are maintaining good posture while doing this (or any) exercise.
Somatosensory Balance Exercise #3 Toe Spread Exercise
How to: With shoes off, roll a small ball from the big toe to the small toe, spreading and stretching the toes. Your heel should maintain contact with the floor at all times. This exercise will help your balance by increasing flexibility your toes and improving somatosensory awareness in the feet.
Somatosensory Balance Exercise #4 Center of Pressure Isolation Exercise
How to: In a standing position, keep eyes on the horizon while varying the center of pressure on the bottom of your feet pausing at each position. Work one foot at a time and then both together. Begin pressing through the big toe, then travel systematically to the middle three toes pressing them into the ground together followed by the pinky toe. After working the toes move to the inside ball of the foot followed by the outside ball of the foot, then press through the ball of the foot, and the heel. Next press through the outer surface running along the outer edge of the foot, then the inner surface. This exercise will help improve balance by building strength, stimulating proprioceptors in the feet and building somatosensory awareness.