Help me find a word relating to balance
June 27, 2008 1:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm searching for a word, possibly a technical or medical term, that I think starts with the letter p, and that defines the relationship between the bones in the feet as they apply to overall balance. Am I dreaming this word?
posted by Mil to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by cyanide at 1:26 AM on June 27, 2008

Best answer: Proprioception?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:41 AM on June 27, 2008

posted by roofus at 2:19 AM on June 27, 2008

Response by poster: I think proprioception is the one, thanks so much everyone.
posted by Mil at 3:19 AM on June 27, 2008

My fiance' will attest, that's one of my favorite words. It also refers to your sense of your own body, like when they have you close your eyes and touch your nose with your finger, or walking down a narrow hallway in the dark.
posted by notsnot at 4:31 AM on June 27, 2008


Proprioception (pronounced /ˌproʊpriːəˈsɛpʃən/ PRO-pree-o-SEP-shun); from Latin proprius, meaning "one's own" and perception) is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body. Unlike the six exteroceptive senses (sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing, and balance) by which we perceive the outside world, and interoceptive senses, by which we perceive the pain and the stretching of internal organs, proprioception is a third distinct sensory modality that provides feedback solely on the status of the body internally. It is the sense that indicates whether the body is moving with required effort, as well as where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other.

Something tells me that balance is not part of the definition of the word nor does the word relate overall balance to the position of the feet... proprioception as I have known it always related to the mind's sense of position of the entire body and its parts. Does provide function, but does not really link up balance with the bones of the feet.

The p-word phalanx seems interestingly more appropriate. From the Podiatry Channel:

The forefoot is composed of the five toes (called phalanges) and their connecting long bones (metatarsals). Each toe (phalanx) is made up of several small bones. The big toe (also known as the hallux) has two phalanx bones—distal and proximal. It has one joint, called the interphalangeal joint. The big toe articulates with the head of the first metatarsal and is called the first metatarsophalangeal joint (MTPJ for short). Underneath the first metatarsal head are two tiny, round bones called sesamoids. The other four toes each have three bones and two joints. The phalanges are connected to the metatarsals by five metatarsal phalangeal joints at the ball of the foot. The forefoot bears half the body's weight and balances pressure on the ball of the foot.

Wikipedia also has a brief article on phalanx bones.

Hope this might help... ;)
posted by JoeXIII007 at 7:32 AM on June 27, 2008

Proprioception doesn't seem to match your description. Nothing to do with feet, and only indirectly related to balance or bones. As stated above, it's your perception of your physical self and where your various bits are (without looking). Frighteningly enough, there are cases where people have lost this (!).
posted by madmethods at 7:49 AM on June 27, 2008

Wikipedia: Kinesthesia is another term that is often used interchangeably with proprioception, though use of the term "kinesthesia" can place a greater emphasis on motion.

Some differentiate the kinesthetic sense from proprioception by excluding the sense of equilibrium or balance from kinesthesia.

posted by BrotherCaine at 3:21 PM on June 27, 2008

Response by poster: It's a tough one, but I think in the context of the conversation: about a general loss of sense of balance after breaking a foot, and the role bones in the foot play in specific, proprioception would seem to fit as a general descriptor. If you break these bones and this affects how your foot interacts with the ground, this would interfere with your sense of proprioception, right?

Caine: I'm having trouble parsing that sentence. Is it saying the Kinesthesia is Proprioception without the focus on balance, or vice versa?
posted by Mil at 8:20 PM on June 27, 2008

Hmmm, I read it as kinesthesia is the sense of one's body in motion without the sense of balance, and proprioception is more the sense of the limits and position of elements of one's body, including balance. I suspect the best person to define them would be a kinesiologist or neurospecialist.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:48 AM on June 28, 2008

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