Our bodies are a system of nerves, muscles and joints that should work together to move you! Each part has a unique role that contributes to the bigger picture of movement as a whole.
Understanding joint health
Our health depends on movement.
Movement is nature’s anti-inflammatory pill. It pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to our cells. But, cartilage (the stuff in our joints) has no blood supply. It receives oxygen and nutrition from the surrounding joint fluid by means of diffusion. During movement, pressure expresses fluid and waste products out of the cartilage cells, and then when the pressure is relieved, fluid diffuses back into them along with oxygen and nutrients.
Therefore, moving your joints through maximum ranges of mobility literally bathes your joints in synovial fluid and washes away calcium deposits and toxins; helping you move with more ease.
In life, we usually go about the same repetitive motions, rarely taking each joint through it’s full range of motion, even if we exercise. (ie. a desk worker who does a spin class after work – their hips are always bend up at 90 degrees)
The bottom line is, if you don’t use it, you lose it – and with joints, that can be permanent if left too long (think osteoarthritis).
Not only does moving joints around their full range of motion improve cartilage and keep you healthy, but the joint capsules (ligaments around all the joints) are highly
concentrated with mechanoreceptors. Therefore, moving a joint through all their ranges of available motion give huge proprioceptive input to the brain to allow for more
accurate and precise motor control over the body.
Body Control is developed from how well can you get a single joint to do what you want it to do without influence or interference from other joint(s) surrounding it.
Understanding how muscles work
Muscles are controlled by the brain.
The training of muscle has changed a lot over the years. It’s not as simple as stretch this one, and lift weights for that one.
Muscles are ultimately a tissue that is controlled by your brain, and their flexibility and strength is influenced by the health of the muscle fibres themselves. Muscles never work in isolation, but in functional units to move the body. Some need to stabilize areas, while others coordinate the movement. All this should happen without you having to “think” about it. It is automatic. BUT, if communication gets messy, and someone stops talking to someone else, there is a breakdown in these relationships.
The health of the tissue is what most of you will think about as “knots” in your muscles, or “fascia” restrictions, muscle stiffness. etc. All of these events are perceptions of biological and neurological phenomena that occurs as result of injury and poor communication. This why “poking the bruise” (aka. smashing muscles on a ball or roller) will never ultimately heal a tight or sore muscle. The bottom line is, we have to ‘wake muscles up’ to be able to perform their function, before we can exercise them.
This is accomplished by increasing the neurological activity of the muscles to the brain so the brain knows what to do with them. We can accomplish this with a variety of activities from visualization, breath work, controlled exercise, using props (balls and bands), and different rehab activities well. The important thing to note is, there is NEVER a ONE SIZE FITS ALL solution. Then we need to get your brain to learn how to coordinate the muscles togethers so they remember how talk. Rehab is just counselling for your body.
Understanding how your body is designed to work, and where your own limitations exist, and what all these different self-care methods are meant to address, will give you a toolbox to fix a variety of problems when you feel them arise and to keep you healthy.
What do the nerves do?
Well, for the sake of this article, we are going to keep things ridiculously simple.
Nerves bring information to the brain, the brain organizes it and decides what to do, and then it sends information back to the different body parts to carry out its demand.
The important thing for us to note when it comes to self care, is that nerves to be able to ‘glide’ through tissue, and should NEVER be pulled on. So, if exercises are causing numbness or tingling in your body, it’s usually a sign that your nerve is being irritated and you should STOP and get it assessed by a medical professional. Nerve damage is not a good thing, and can have long-term consequences.
That’s great – we all know this – but what does that look like when it comes to our body when we move?!!?
Good movement needs all these systems to work together
If you don’t have good movement in your joints, doing ‘functional exercises’ (ie, squats, overhead presses, lunges etc), won’t create better movement in the limited joints or weak muscles. Because you body isn’t communicating, it’ll naturally use the easiest route to accomplish the challenging task. It’ll increase muscle tension as you try to put yourself into a position that your body isn’t able to obtain, thereby loading structures into a
position they are not supposed to be in, which will result in stress, strain, pain, tightness, or injury.
If one area isn’t able to move then another area will have to move more to achieve the desired motion.
If you would like to improve how you move through this world, an Athletic Therapist can help.