Let’s take another look at reflexes and joint damage. In my article Pain and Reflexes, we talked about how reflexes can cause joint and muscle pain and dysfunction, interfering with your ability to move efficiently. Ultimately, you need to have control over your movements to function properly and reduce pain.
When you have a joint injury, your muscles contract or spasm reflexively to protect it from further damage and pain. The muscles around this joint can be reflexively inhibited by altering its ability to function. Sometimes this reflex inhibition will still take effect long after the pain is gone.
This effect seems to hit the postural muscles more strongly. Some of your muscles are designed for support to allow you to stand and move more efficiently, while others are designed more to generate great forces such as running, jumping or lifting. Either way, you need a balance between these muscles for optimal health and this balance is often disturbed after an injury knee brace.
With low back pain, for example, this inhibition can lead to a significant loss of muscle size. Especially in its multifidus muscle, which is an important stabilizer for the lower back. This group of muscles runs the entire spine from the lower back to the neck, providing stability and control for each individual vertebra.
With the knee, the injury appears to inhibit the muscle in the inner portion that helps fully extend (straighten) the knee joint. This is also a postural muscle, important for normal walking. When it is not working properly, the knee does not straighten completely, causing you to limp while walking. Obviously, this is a very inefficient move.
The muscles responsible for bending the knee, hamstrings seem to become eased, which means they are contracting more often than normal. This can occur to keep the joint in a neutral position where less damage can occur.
In a study of patients who removed the cartilage from the knee, the front leg muscles were 35-40% inhibited 10-15 days after surgery. That is a 35-40% reduction in normal function. This was after they were discharged, fully supported the weight and felt little or no pain.
Ok, so how does this relate to you? If you have had past injuries that result in chronic pain and / or tension, you really need to focus on your posture as these muscles tend to remain weak, not functioning at full capacity.
You should also control the movement of your joints, as this can stop any reflex activity that still occurs long after the injury. Precise control of your joint movements also puts less stress on your joints, as all muscles are doing their specific work at the right time.
Obviously, you want to have enough strength in the muscles that support your joints, but precise control of your movements helps ensure that your muscles are not inhibited by reflexes. It’s easier to strengthen them when you take the brake off.
Joint mobility movements do a good job of achieving this control. Moving slowly, making small movements and avoiding pain are key elements. Going slow gives your brain a chance to realize what’s going on with your body, the chance to process all the information your sensors are sending. It also improves your mind-body connection.
Another thing that can help with this process is a new technology called whole body vibration. While standing on a special vibration platform, your muscles contract reflexively between 30-50 times per second. This can potentially stimulate muscles that have been inhibited by reflexes and are not functioning properly.
Remember, when you have muscles that have too much or too little tension, uneven pressure is placed on your joints, which can result in stiffness and pain. Professional sports teams are using this technology to help their athletes recover and rehabilitate faster, but the greatest potential may be in removing reflexes that are causing people pain and / or stiffness.
Combining the use of whole body vibration with joint mobility training can even achieve better results than either one on its own. Check back often for more information on this exciting new health area.