Isn’t it curious how we incorrectly and inappropriately phrase things, leading us to believe that they are actually true? Have you ever said…”my back went out”. Like your back just decided one day to go rogue and go into spasm, or stop supporting you. Hmm…really?
The truth is that you may have been mistreating your back muscles for some time, not consciously, but unknowingly.
The discipline of Hanna Somatics explains that the muscles in your back line (posterior line), have been locked tight and short in Green Light Reflex for such a long time that when you engage in a movement pattern that invites your short and tight muscles to a) shorten even more, or b) to stretch, forcing them long, sends them into a serious revolt and spasm causing intense and painful gripping.
Those of you who have a tendency for your back to go out, can likely recollect pretty clearly, how and in what movement pattern this sequence of events happened.
We are gambling woman and willing to hedge a bet that it is generally the motions of leaning to the side and folding forward – “bending” to pick something up, that caused this painful and scary phenomenon.
Sensory Motor Amnesia
So what really happens when your back goes out?
The CORRECT explanation is that the culprit muscles, the ones chronically short and tight, unbeknownst to you, or your brain, were experiencing what Somatic Neuromuscular Re-education refers to as – Sensory Motor Amnesia or SMA.
Sensory Motor Amnesia is a memory loss of how to feel and control certain muscles or chains of muscles responsible for specific movement patterns in the body. It is a learned motor pattern of the nervous system whereby these muscles display a limited range of motion, maintain a higher than normal level of involuntary contraction at rest, experience ongoing pain, and other dysfunctions at rest or in use.
When you ask your muscles that are suffering from Sensory Motor Amnesia to move outside their current pattern of holding/gripping, spasms can occur. The technical name for this is Stretch Reflex.
Stretch Reflex is a protective physiological response to guard against forceful or abrupt lengthening of muscles to protect them against tearing or injury. Stretch reflex involves a signal from the muscle to the spinal cord and back. It does not involve the brain.
This natural protection mechanism results in the muscles moving into hypercontraction which can feel like a charley horse or cramp.
We have all experienced this at some point. Ever bent down to pick something up and couldn’t get up? This is what is really happening when your back goes out!
This ‘charley horse’ sensation is a result of hypercontraction. It’s just the body’s way of protecting itself. The true underlying issue is Sensory Motor Amnesia (a neurosignature in your brain that is telling your muscles to maintain a certain level of contraction.)
No amount of massage, stretching, muscle relaxants will resolve the underlying issue of Sensory Motor Amnesia over the long term. In order to teach the muscles to release and be functional again, they need to be re-educated.
Somatic Neuromuscular re-education works to reconnect the brain’s control over the contraction and release of the back line muscles so they willing contract and lengthen as needed with movement. This means that you can then bend over easily and freely and get back up just as easily. This means no back pain after your yoga class, gym workout or when gardening.
So how do you re-educate your back line when you have Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA)?
Pandiculation is simple and easy. It is the number one tool used in Somatic Neuromuscular Re-education. It involves 3 simple steps:
1) a conscious contraction of the muscle or muscle chain,
2) a conscious, controlled and slow lengthening of the muscle or muscle chain, and
3) then the complete relaxation and rest of the muscle or muscle chain.
Essentially the magic involves bringing your muscles back “online” with the brain so that they contract when they need to contract and release when they need to release.
This serves many purposes particularly to:
- Eliminate pain – because the muscle(s) are no longer gripping, short and working all the time.
- Improve function – because the muscles are now contracting and releasing, and shortening and lengthening as you conduct your day to day movements.
- Restores strength – because you now have cortical or brain control over the full length of the muscle, making the muscle stronger and more efficient. (link to last post)
Want to learn more about this pandiculation stuff?
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