Making your stretching more effective. 

While I was making linguine and clam sauce for my family, one of my favorite foods that I haven’t had in quite some time( and listening to Dream Theater of course) I was thinking about this post.  Then I remembered about voice recognition on my iMac.  Talk about multitasking!

What do you agree that stretching is good or not, you or your client still may decide to do so possibly because of the “feel good” component. Make sure to see this post here on “feel good”  part from a few weeks ago. 

If you do decide to stretch, make sure you take advantage of you or your clients neurology.  There are many ways to do this. One way we will discuss today is taking advantage of what we call myotatic reflex.

The myotatic reflex is a simple reflex arc. The reflex begins at the receptor in the muscle (blue neuron above) : the muscle spindles (nuclear bag or nuclear chain fibers). This sensory (afferent) information then travels up the peripheral nerve to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord where it enters and synapses in the ventral horn on an alpha motor neuron.  The motor neuron (efferent) leaves the ventral horn and travels back down the peripheral nerve to the contractile portion of the myfibrils (muscle fiber) from which the the sensory (afferent) signal came (red neuron above).  This causes the muscle to contract. Think of a simple reflex when somebody taps a reflex hammer on your tendon. This causes the muscle to contract and your limb moves.

Nuclear bag and nuclear chain fibers detect length or stretch in a the muscle whereas Golgi Tendon organs tension. We have discussed this in other posts here.   With this in mind, slow stretch of a muscle causes it to contract more, through the muscle spindle mechanism.

Another reflex that we should be familiar with is called reciprocal inhibition. It states simply that when one muscle (the agonist) contracts it’s antagonist is inhibited (green neuron above).  You can find more on reciprocal inhibition here.

Take advantage of both of these reflexes?   Try this:

  • do a calf stretch like this: put your foot in dorsiflexion, foot resting on the side of the doorframe.
  • Keep your leg straight.
  • Grab the the door frame with your arms and slowly draw your stomach toward the door frame. 
  • Feel the stretch in your calf; this is a slow stretch. Can you feel the increased tension in your calf? You could fatigue this reflex if you stretched long enough. If you did, then the muscle would be difficult to activate. This is one of the reasons stretching seems to inhibit performance. 
  • Now for an added stretch, dorsiflex your toes and try to bring your foot upward.  Did you notice how you can get more stretch your calf and increased length? This is reciprocal inhibition at work!

There you have it, one neurological tool of many to give you increased length.The next time you are statically stretching, take  advantage of these reflexes to make it more effective.

 The Gait Guys. Teaching you more  about anatomy, physiology, and neurology with each and every post. 

image from :www.positivehealth.com

Injury and Repair

Injury and Repair?

It appears injury and repair are the yin and yang of healing. Injury may be necessary for nerve regeneration to occur, at least in mice. Talk about neural learning! So injuries (from a neurological perspective) may be a good thing!  Perhaps this is why acupuncture, dry needling and intramuscular therapy work so well for these conditions. ( Watch for a Live Gait Guys course in dry needling and intramuscular stimulation this fall in Chicago and Denver!)    
A protein abbreviated DLK (which stands for dual leucine zipper kinase) apparently is necessary to activate nerve regeneration after an injury.    
“DLK is a key molecule linking an injury to the nerve’s response to that injury, allowing the nerve to regenerate,” says Aaron DiAntonio, MD, PhD, professor of developmental biology. “How does an injured nerve know that it is injured? How does it take that information and turn on a regenerative program and regrow connections? And why does only the peripheral nervous system respond this way, while the central nervous system does not? We think DLK is part of the answer.”    
Most injuries have a neurological component, whether it be the inflammatory process, a change in muscle tone or activity, the perception of pain or proprioceptive abnormality. If this mechanism is not triggered, the nervous system may not heal. This may provide clues as to why nerve injuries heal so slowly or are less responsive. Learning more about this protein may provide clues and answers to this commonly encountered dilemma.    
The original paper was published in Neuron and a nice summary can be found here.    
The Gait Guys: sorting out the literature and giving you the latest information so you can make more informed clinical decisions.

What is driving our patterned movements such as gait and running ?

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2012) — A new finding that motor cortex is a dynamic pattern generator upends existing theory with broad implications for neuroscience.

Maybe it is actually easier to understand than we thought. A new paper presents some compelling evidence that the motor cortex, rather than being command central, is more like a part of the machine, sending rhythmic signals down the spinal cord to orchestrate movement. 

“The electrical signal that drives a given movement is therefore an amalgam — a summation — of the rhythms of all the motor neurons firing at a given moment.”


This is of course monitored (and modified) by one of our best friends, the cerebellum.

Check it out here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120603191720.htm#.T8yrhOzhvGk.facebook

Ivo and Shawn…Geeky….Cool….Hey, geeky is the new cool. Don’t laugh, you a re a geek as well if you are reading this post : )

What is driving our patterned movements such as gait and running ?

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2012) — A new finding that motor cortex is a dynamic pattern generator upends existing theory with broad implications for neuroscience. Maybe it is actually easier to understand than we thought. A new paper presents some compelling evidence that the motor cortex, rather than being command central, is more like a part of the machine, sending rhythmic signals down the spinal cord to orchestrate movement.  “The electrical signal that drives a given movement is therefore an amalgam — a summation — of the rhythms of all the motor neurons firing at a given moment.” This is of course monitored (and modified) by one of our best friends, the cerebellum. Check it out here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120603191720.htm#.T8yrhOzhvGk.facebook Ivo and Shawn…Geeky….Cool….Hey, geeky is the new cool. Don’t laugh, you a re a geek as well if you are reading this post : )

What is driving our patterned movements such as gait and running ?