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Motor Control: The Essence of How We Move.

You may or may not have heard of the term “Motor Control”. Usually if you have seen a health professional, you may have heard that you may exhibit good, adequate or poor motor control when performing a task. But what does that mean???

Motor Control is defined as “the process by which humans and animals use their brain/cognition to activate and coordinate the muscles and limbs involved in the performance of a motor skill.”

What a mouthful !! But again what does this mean?

In the basic sense we all have “movement patterns” which govern how we perform our daily activities. These movement patterns are learned from birth and continue to evolve as we get older, we get fitter, (or less fit) and when we get hurt. This evolution is based on the environment we are exposed to which may stimulate various neural receptors of joints, muscles, etc, and our internal environment (feelings, state of mind, etc). As these movement patterns change, the body sometimes adapts at the structural level:

some areas may get stronger or weaker and more flexible or less flexible.

When performing a successful movement pattern, they are governed by 3 different attributes:

1. Mobility: Are we flexible enough to perform a task?

2. Stability: Do we have a stable enough platform to be able to perform that task?

3. Motor Control: Do we have the right “brain programs” learned and instilled to arrange all the moving parts into a powerful, smooth and/or precise movement?

This is great information but how do we put this into practice?

Here’s an example. It is a quite common condition in athletes who can’t touch their toes to believe they have “tight hamstrings”. But what if it was not this was not always the case!

What if it was a muscular contraction of the hamstrings caused by an inappropriate bending pattern caused by a lack of stability and/or poor motor control program? In other words, what if the brain via cues from the muscles and joints had “written” a new pattern of NOT being able to toe touch? Sounds strange but bear with me!

There are a few major elements to this learned pattern such as lack of hip hinge and adductor activity, or a learned pattern of hamstring “over contraction”. Without breaking down the pattern too much, many people have had this pattern “challenged” with the result of either being able to touch their toes, or get significantly closer to being able to achieve that result. It is quite amazing to watch a few simple exercises in “re-patterning” can challenge what was a previously impossible task.

If you like to know more about how motor control, stability and mobility fits in with your training, treatment and daily activities (or you would just like to touch your toes again!), give me a call at Body and Spine Solutions on (02) 5310 6259.

Ian Fischer

Central West Myotherapy

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