CAN YOU FEEL IT?
SENSATION AND PERCEPTION

11th February 2021

In this post, I'm going to explain sensations and perceptions, i.e. what we can and can't feel and why

Hi guys, Carl Green Fitness 4 Life Physio here, and I’ve been empowering adults to improve their health and their fitness since 2002. You’ll find loads more information on my website www.fitness4lifephysio.com.

But for now let’s get stuck into today’s topic, and if you like what you see please share on social media, or you can subscribe, including my mailing list so you don’t miss future posts.

Contents

Okay so let’s get stuck in…so we’re going to talk about three main things:

What is the difference between sensations and perceptions?

Why we need to be able to feel and make sense of changes going on inside and outside of the body?

What things can cause changes to bodily sensations and perceptions and how those things work?

Then we’ll bring it all together in a little summary at the end and talk about what’s next.

What is the difference between human sensation and perception?

Okay guys, it’s a really big topic so I’m just going to try and go through some of the key points.

So, what is the difference between sensation and perception? To simplify, sensation is the stimulus our body can sense, and perception is how we make sense of that stimulus.

So let’s do an example to put the two together:

If you take your finger close your eyes and I want you to touch your nose and then take your finger away from your nose. So, close your eyes and move your finger to and from your nose. Now, just by doing that, we took away some of our senses, such as sight, and we’re having to use other senses.

Now, if you’re touching your nose effectively and you’re not missing and poking yourself somewhere else, then your systems are working really well. That means that your receptors in your arm are telling it where it is by sensing changes to muscles and tissue lengths, so shortening and lengthening of tissues and joint position changes. It’s sensing all of that information and it’s telling you where you are in space. Then the other thing its doing, is when you make contact with your nose you can feel that you’re touching your nose.

So, that’s telling you that all those stimuli are being sensed by your receptors which send electrical impulse through your nervous system that’s going up to your brain. Then your brain’s making sense of it all and tells you where you are and what’s going on.

Why do we need to feel and make sense of changes inside and outside of the body?

Well, for inside our bodies, if we’re not aware of what’s changing, we’re not aware of what we’re doing with ourselves, in terms of controlling movement like we talked about earlier but also in terms of changes that might be causing us harm, such as if we’ve had injuries or something happened to us, we want to have a sense of where something has changed in order for us to seek the right course of action.

So, it’s a protective mechanism, and it’s also a learning mechanism, and that’s even more true when we think of outside of our bodies. So, we’re learning to be able to interact with the environment around us so hot things, cold things, different textures, and being able to do lots and lots of different things really.

It’s about learning and interacting with the world, and about keeping the body a good balance and being aware of changes with our health and our function.

What can cause changes to our bodily sensations or perceptions?

Now finally, let’s talk about a few examples of ways that these systems for sensing and perceiving can be affected. So, there’s scenarios where we’d have damaged to tissues you might have an injury things like strains and sprains. Or back pain, neck pain with nerve irritations (some nerve root irritations or trapped nerves) causing sciatica (in the leg) or brachialgia (which is the equivalent in the arm) and all of these sorts of things, and lots of others, can cause changes to the way those nerves are stimulated.

With injuries, things like strains and sprains, there have also been some changes to the anatomy in your body, and these receptors have got to readjust to sense and be more accurate on what’s going on within the body. They’ve got to re-learn in a way, and adjust their levels, and the brain’s representation of what’s going on in the body also has to relearn, because that’s changed too.

Other conditions could be things like neurological conditions, like stroke, when there is a bleed in the brain affecting the opposite side of the body, and you can have altered sensations due to that as well. It was actually my stroke rehab class I run online on a Thursday afternoon at half two that suggested this post, so that’s why I’m doing this one as my first one.

The good news is that our brains and our bodies are really good at relearning. Okay, so whether you’ve had a stroke, or whether you’ve had any of those other things that I’ve mentioned (injuries etc.), we should be able to start relearning. This involves a process of using different types of stimulation, different types of textures, temperatures, and different movements, to slowly and progressively (in a structured way) build up the body’s senses and perceptions again.

Now, whether you get back to where you were before your injury or health condition is really hard to know, but certainly by practicing those things in a very strategic way can be really useful and something we use a lot in physiotherapy.

Conclusion and What Next?

Okay, so we’ve talked about sensation and perception and what they are, we’ve talked about why we need them, and we’ve also talked about a few examples of things that can change how those systems work as well. There are lots of other examples, things like circulation can have a role as well, but I’m not going to go into all of those, as I want to keep this quite short. Hopefully that covers some of the key points for you and you’ve learned something and found it useful.

Please do share with others on social media, and if you have any feedback, I’d love to hear from you, genuinely really would. So please go onto my website at www.fitness4lifephysio.com and there’s a contacts page to contact me, maybe with suggestions or any questions that you have. Perhaps I’ll do a post based on your ideas in the future, like I did with my stroke class this time. I’d love to hear from you.

You can also subscribe to my newsletters as well, so that’s an email notification when I send out new posts like this, or you can subscribe if you’re on YouTube.

All the best guys, take care, and hopefully see you again soon.

Carl Green, Fitness 4 Life Physio

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  • Loving Carl's Zoom stroke exercise class. There are always options available to make the exercises suitable for everyone. Highly recommend his weekly class. Thank you Carl.

    Pamela irving Avatar Pamela irving
    17/06/2021
  • I am a part of a stroke group and Carl runs a Zoom class every Thursday after. He is a qualified instructor in all forms of exercise including Stroke Rehabilitation. He gives us gentle movements that he explains what benefits they have. Non of the exercises are strenuous and he can tailor then to each individual. Each month we have an assessment lesson where we all fill out a private form that no one else can see. looking over the forms for the last few months I can see although it be slow a steady improvement. I would strongly recommend Carl and his rehabilitation classes to anyone who wants to make some improvement there improved mobility. A big Thank you Carl

    Brian Sheppard Avatar Brian Sheppard
    15/01/2021
  • Carl helped me when I had inflammation and sharp pain in my Achilles, he diagnosed me straight away and started treating the pain immediately which was a massive relief. Carl gave me specific exercises to work on inbetween sessions which I still include in my workouts today. Carl was very professional and extremely knowledgeable, his treatment room was comfortable and his booking system was easy to use. His service was very personal which I found lacking when visiting other physios . Would highly recommend

    Sean Ryan Avatar Sean Ryan
    27/08/2020
  • After an ankle injury sustained Mountain biking that just would not seem to heal, Carls expertise helped to diagnose what was wrong and get me back to regular training. He prescribed and demonstrated exercises, explained the benefits of each and really helped me to understand the reasons why we were doing them. Progress was seen immediately, and although its still not quite as good as before the injury, i was able to avoid surgery which would of entailed a much longer healing time with no guarenteed results. If you are looking for a friendly and knowledgeable physio look no further!

    Jack Noon Avatar Jack Noon
    31/03/2021
  • I saw Carl when I was suffering from plantar fasciitis. He sorted out a rehabilitation programme, demonstrated excellent understanding of my needs to get back onto the netball court as quickly as possible and explained clearly what exercises would help. He is knowledgeable about many sports and injuries, as well as being available for advice around training and strength and conditioning. I will certainly seek out his advice in the future.

    Annabel Bennett Avatar Annabel Bennett
    05/03/2020
  • Carl is the physiotherapist at our Stroke Club. He is cheerful, warm and approachable. He is always thinking of new and fun ways to help us maximise our potential after stroke. His patience, humour and expertise makes him a valuble, well loved member of the team. He is highly recommended!

    Nick Trett Avatar Nick Trett
    07/02/2020
  • Carl is an excellent physio and has a great knowledge base from strength and conditioning to manual therapy. I would definitely recommend Carl for physio treatment.

    James Leathers Avatar James Leathers
    02/01/2021
  • I saw Carl when I had Sciatica and was in a lot of pain. He was extremely professional, knowledgeable and helped when the pain was at its worst. He gave me some great after care advice as well which I still use now and am pleased to say I am still pain free. Would highly recommend and would use again myself.

    Martin Cumberland Avatar Martin Cumberland
    17/02/2020
  • I certainly recommend Carl's online Stroke rehab class. It's convenient connecting to Zoom weekly and Carl is reassuring and knowledgeable in this work. I've been with the class for 1 year plus.

    optimistic gal Avatar optimistic gal
    14/08/2021
  • Loving Carl's Zoom stroke exercise class. There are always options available to make the exercises suitable for everyone. Highly recommend his weekly class. Thank you Carl.

    Pamela irving Avatar Pamela irving
    13/05/2021
  • positive review  I saw Carl when I was suffering from plantar fasciitis. He sorted out a rehabilitation programme, demonstrated excellent understanding of my needs to get back onto the netball court as quickly as possible and explained clearly what exercises would help. He is knowledgeable about many sports and injuries, as well as being available for advice around training and strength and conditioning. I will certainly seek out his advice in the future.

    Annabel Bennett Avatar Annabel Bennett
    03/03/2020
  • positive review  I became a client of Carl's earlier this year after suffering a calf injury playing rugby. After the extremely professional assessment; medical history, previous injuries, level of physical activity, current physical stats etc. I was given a detailed but easy to follow plan of rehabilitation. No pressure was put upon me to have any follow up appointments; literally my choice if I felt the need for further treatment. I took the opportunity to book a further treatment straight away. Through the careful management of my injury by Carl, sports massage, specific area exercise and monitoring by him, I was able to resume playing rugby again within an incredibly short time frame that I didn't think would've been possible. I can thoroughly recommend Carl for anything from a small niggle to major injury as you'll be seen by the best.

    Stephen Barrett Avatar Stephen Barrett
    28/12/2019
  • positive review  I am a part of a stroke group and Carl is giving us training and therapy on zoom. He has a real understaning of what it is like to have a stroke and give us the appropriate exerecsie for our needs. He is a patient and very calm person and always ready to help. Thanks Carl

    Brian Sheppard Avatar Brian Sheppard
    10/12/2020
  • positive review  Carl has helped me and other Stroke survivors to keep active and gives us the exercises we need to keep us moving. Carl is very good and I would recommend him without hesitation.

    Adi Stannard-Smith Avatar Adi Stannard-Smith
    14/11/2020
  • positive review  I saw Carl when I had Sciatica and was in a lot of pain. He was extremely professional, knowledgeable and helped when the pain was at its worst. He gave me some great after care advice as well which I still use now and am pleased to say I am still pain free. Would highly recommend and would use again myself.

    Martin Cumberland Avatar Martin Cumberland
    17/02/2020
  • positive review  Carl was my supervisor for a time whilst working in MSK physiotherapy in Suffolk. He's always put alot of time and effort into teaching and helping me to understand all things physio related and how best to manage tricky patients. Working with Carl has helped to develop my clinical reasoning skills, handling, and confidence and he is a physio that even with my own six years experience, I would still seek out and value his opinion and advice

    Lee Platt Avatar Lee Platt
    08/01/2020
  • positive review  Carl did my assessment before referring me to a neurologist when he discovered that physical therapy was not the appropriate course of action. Although unable to assist me with an exercise program, he took the time to go through all of my history, did a thorough physical assessment before making any assumptions and compiled a great referral report which sped things up for me afterwards. Professional attitude, knows his stuff and a friendly guy, highly recommend!

    Chris Stennett Avatar Chris Stennett
    13/11/2019

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