REACTIVATING NEURAL PATHWAYS The more I research into health, the more I find that EVERYTHING is connected, and I mean everything. However, specifically I am talking about your muscles. So since everything is connected, then what happens when a muscle gets shuts off? Or isn’t active? The answer is simple, either you rehab if CORRECTLY and reactivate it, or it stays shutoff and your body makes adjustments around it. Now this is a totally normal process, human beings have always had injuries and our bodies have always adjusted and hopefully healed. However, in our not too distant pasts people moved in 3 planes of motion (forward/back, side to side, twist). Most people today consistently stay in one planes of motion; forward! Everything today is forward; walking, your steering wheel when you drive, your computer, etc…. it’s hard to think of many things you have to do consistently that force you to move in all 3 planes of motion with purpose, or at least good posture.
Sadly, unlike what we heard in 40 Year Old Virgin, when it comes to our muscles; if you don’t use it, you really can loose it. And thanks to the fact that we don’t move and live the way we were made too, muscles also shut off simply from a lack of use. A great thing to watch is a baby or a toddler move about. They almost always instinctively do perfect squats, grip the ground with their toes, and pick things up without hunching their back. They move in all planes of motion so everything is activated, they don’t have to think about posture because the body does it automatically. But later in life, the kids go to school and start sitting in desks all day looking forward at the teacher, and muscles slowly start shutting off because we aren’t using them! Injuries become worse because certain pathways are already turned off. The body has to make adjustments like compromising your posture, or simply just putting too much stress on certain joints, which can lead to more injuries, general pain, and eventually even wearing out some joints completely. Reading this, how many of you have still have to sit in a desk most of your work life??? All these things are connected, injuries, lack of movement, loss of certain muscle groups, joint pain, all of it!
This may sound like a lot but if you took a healthy newborn baby with absolutely no medical issues and placed them in the dark for 4 years, the neural pathways for sight would shut off. The child would be at the very least extremely sensitive to any type of light if not blinded completely. So what do you think happens when you spend the majority of your time staying still and don’t use muscles that should be used consistently? They shut off, and your muscle problems begin.
The number one tool you have for reactivating these muscles and pathways is your MIND!!! Again I’m going to refer to a baby because that’s the best example. What do you think that baby thinks about while they are laying in a crib for however many months not even able to roll over? I obviously can’t say for sure, but I would imagine at some point that baby thinks I want to stand up, but first they have to roll over. The baby doesn’t roll over the first time it tries, it wiggles and moves however it can to develop the strength to do it. Then he lays around and thinks about it a little more, the when he tries again he concentrates with all his strength! His brain is telling his muscles what he wants them to do, he is literally programming his body how to move and setting neural pathways that should last him a lifetime. But then the baby gets to join society, and due to lack of use and inevitable injury, muscles shut down.
I strongly believe that everybody needs to be on a strict rehabilitation program, that consists of foam rolling and muscle activating exercises. The best thing you can do for yourself is be knowledgeable about the exercise that you are doing. You need to know why you are doing it, what muscles should activate, in what order, and exactly how you should move. During the exercise, you should be concentrating with all your strength on the muscles that should be activating and telling your brain to reset those neural pathways. It will take time, just like it took you time as a baby. Even if you can’t feel yourself using it, keep telling your brain to use it and keep trying. If it’s been inactive for 20 years it’s not going to reactivate in 30 seconds. Your mind is an extremely powerful resource that you need to use to your advantage.
I have had ACL/Meniscus surgery along with hip surgery. Needless to say I developed a lot of muscles imbalances and had muscles that shut off completely. The first issue I found that I really targeted for my rehab was the muscles around my hip. Almost any leg movement you do should involve the glutes. And if the glutes fire off your lower back muscle on the OPPOSITE side of the glute that fired off should activate. So your muscles contract in sort of a cross pattern way in that area. The first month of rehab, I wasn’t sure if I was making progress or not but I kept mentally concentrating as hard as I possibly could everytime I did my rehab. It honestly took me about 3 months to get my body to where it activates correctly in that area but now it fires off automatically again!!! I’m still doing the exercises that got me there. I see this same problem with almost everybody I’ve ever trained. You may be thinking that 3 months is a long time but how long does it take a baby to roll over? Sounds about right to me.
In conclusion, we all need to be more knowledgeable about how our bodies should be moving and make more of an effort both mentally and physically to move that way. Your mind is the most powerful weapon you have when it comes to healing how your body moves. The cross pattern example I gave above is just one of many issues that are extremely common in people today. The more you move, the more you incorporate movement into your life, the higher your quality of life will be.