Our bodies work by a series of inputs that go into the brain that can influence a resulting output. Various inputs can influence our brain's perception of threats, resulting in pain as the output. As a clinician, I cannot change the outputs of the brain, but we can change the inputs to change behaviors that can alter possible outputs.
Today I want to dive a little deeper on how our perceptions and past experiences posture our bodies without us even knowing it.
What’s the deal with variability?
Movement variability seems to be all the rage these days, but how can we effectively relay that to patients? There is plenty of research supporting variability that I believe is extremely useful when accessing different avenues to help treat patients throughout your clinical thinking progress. However, the research may be a little overwhelming when explaining to patients the importance of reducing threat perception by eliciting inputs of a novel stimulus to the brain while performing tasks/movements that are similar to the patient’s daily life.
Many people fall trap to performing movements in a routine manner that is limited with very little variations in options to perform a movement such as picking up a shoe off the ground. The repetitive use of the same option of movement can lead to a restriction in your bodies’ capabilities to perform varying tasks in different environment, possibly leading to pain, secondary to repetitive load. We are creatures of habit, but we can break habits and adopt better ones.
An example of unknowingly picking up a bad habit may be something as simple as lifting our arms overhead to grab an object from a cabinet. We may not have proper control and range of motion to complete the task, but still achieve it. How so? We may be standing up on our toes or extending our backs to gain reach. We will do this over and over again without realizing it. This will limit our movement options since we only have one way to get the job done.
Since almost everyone you see drives, using the analogy of a car can sometimes be an effective way to translate this topic.
Picture a car on a road with 2 road blocks on either side of the road, and 2 blocks narrowing the road, causing limited room for this car to move in all directions. These barriers represent the range within your body can move, allowing only a small movement in reverse, forward, and turning left/right. The car could speed up and push through the barrier taking on damage during the way, whether it is a banged up fender, a flat tire, broken headlight, etc. This may not stop the overall function of the car and not cause pain to the body. However, repetitive hits to the barrier will cause more dings to the car. With limitations to turn, we will be spinning our tires trying to achieve some semblance of movement that will cause repetitive stress and load to the tires. The tires, and the rest of the car, are just victims of the limited options in the road.
Our bodies should have the capabilities to speed up, slow down, and move in all directions with as much freedom as possible. By allowing the road in which these barriers exist to be expanded, it would take more before we hit the barriers. The goal is to remove the barriers by making the road a one car highway where acceleration, speed, and turns to be made without repercussions. We may need the occasional maintenance such as an oil change (soreness or soft tissue issues) or changes in the brakes (refining motor patterns or increasing capacity) in order to keep us up and running.
Novel movements progressed in a safe manner will allow the brain to recognize new options in which to operate to pick up that shoe. It could use a hinge, squat, lunge, bend, etc. Remember, there is always more than one way to skin a cat. Don’t be stuck between barriers. Open up a highway for your body.
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