Kristjanson et al. defines sensory motor training as “all the afferent, efferent, and central integration and processing components involved in maintaining stability in the postural control system through intrinsic motor properties” (Kristjansson & Treleaven, 2009). Basically, the sensory motor system is a complex system like a computer with all its wires that helps you stay upright and balanced. The system is made up of 3 parts: vision, proprioception, and your body’s ability to know where it is in space. This allows your body to function seamlessly throughout everyday life.
When the system is having some technical difficulties, you may be feeling not yourself. Kristjanson et al. notes that someone with sensory motor deficits may experience the following:
(Kristjansson & Treleaven, 2009)
There are many reasons why someone may be experiencing these symptoms and should be seen by either your Physical Therapist or Physician for a proper evaluation. That being said, these symptoms can also be related to a whiplash injury. Bhatnagar et al. reported “approximately 1.7 million Americans have a traumatic brain injury” (Bhatnagar et al., 2019). The authors also reported “More than 650,000 annual cases of TBI are attributed to falls and motor vehicle accidents” (Bhatnagar et al., 2019). Whiplash injuries commonly occur with motor vehicle accidents. During this type of injury, the head and neck abruptly moves backwards and forwards, causing a neck and/or cervical spine injury. The cervical spine also has a strong relationship with the sensory motor system. The cervical spine is most mobile aspect of the spine, which makes it the most vulnerable (Kristjansson & Treleaven, 2009).
This is sort of the same when you bump into a computer and a couple of the loose wires lose connection. When the computer doesn’t have all its wires, it can’t work properly. However, the solution is easy, reconnect the wires! The same rationale may work with someone truly suffering from sensory motor deficits due to a whiplash injury. Addressing those deficits during your Physical Therapy treatment has also been shown to decrease neck pain.
Author: Dr. Joe Vitale, PT, DPT
Bhatnagar, S., Anderson, M., Chu, M., Kuo, D., & Azuh, O. (2019). Rehabilitation Assessment and Management of Neurosensory Deficits After Traumatic Brain Injury in the Polytrauma Veteran. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 30(1), 155–170. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmr.2018.08.014
Kristjansson, E., & Treleaven, J. (2009). Sensorimotor Function and Dizziness in Neck Pain: Implications for Assessment and Management. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 39(5), 364–377. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2009.2834