Symptoms like pain appear when something in your body is hurt or dysfunctioning. With many disease types a lot has to happen before you feel symptoms. Sure, you could break a bone or accidently cut yourself and you would feel instant pain but there are a lot of other diseases and issues that take a long time to manifest as pain or ill health. Some of these are heart issues, cancer and diabetes. These diseases take a longer time to develop and manifest, and if we can catch these things earlier there are much easier ways of dealing with them before they take a great toll on our health.
Early detection of reversible causes is desirable as they may be remediable and their treatment can prevent permanent dysfunction and disability (1).
Here are some simple tests to gain a window into your nervous system – the system that helps control your whole body. What we are showing here are a few easy tests to get a picture of how well a part of your nervous system is functioning. Specifically we are looking at proprioception. Proprioception is a deep sensation that arises from the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints (1). This information essentially tells us where we are in space.
Central postural control (equilibrium) is dependent on input from three peripheral modalities: vision, vestibular apparatus (balance centres in our ears) and proprioception (joint sense and sense of position). Disturbance in any one of these modalities can be compensated for (completely or incompletely) by input from the other two systems. Therefore when we close our eyes and do the following tests we cannot rely on our vision to compensate. This allows us to more clearly test our positional sense and the way in which our nervous system transmits this information.
Romberg’s test is considered positive if there is significant imbalance with the eyes closed or the imbalance significantly worsens on closing the eyes (if imbalance was present with the eyes open). Normal individuals also tend to sway to some extent on closing their eyes. Low normal performance consists of the ability to stand heel-to toe, with eyes closed, for six seconds. Young adults should be able to perform this test for thirty seconds but performance is reported to decline with age (1).