Functional Training Institute

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: Re-wiring with Touch

touch tactile cues brain

In our last post we covered how our brain and muscles connect to create movement in our body through neural pathways, and how these pathways become stronger the more we use them regardless of whether they are creating movement with optimal or poor biomechanical patterns. If you missed it scroll to check it out

Hands up if you’ve had clients who, no matter how many different ways you describe something and demonstrate a movement, just CANNOT do what you’re asking?

… They try it and look at you with a hopeful or confused face and ask “is that right?” ?

In these cases where we are trying to correct and re-build a movement pattern, the muscles we are trying to activate to achieve the movement are inhibited, meaning the neural connection between the brain and that muscle is very weak, or even completely severed!

What does that mean?

Put simply, the brain and the muscle are not connected in that movement pattern, so you can describe it and over again but it just won’t help because the brain can’t find that muscle to activate it!

It’s like putting a blindfold on in a room you aren’t familiar with and asking you to find the light switch!

So how do we re-wire the brain and muscles together?

This is where tactile cues are gold!

Touch helps to stimulate the nerves and the awareness of that area, which helps the nerves reconnect and re-wire that pathway from the brain to the muscles.

Lightly tapping on the area where the muscle we are trying to activate is has a huge impact on our brain’s ability to connect with that muscle, and therefore strengthen the neural pathway.

You can do this using a Rehab Dowel like we use in our Movement Restoration Coach Certification, by using your hand or by getting the client to use their own hand so they can physically feel the movement and muscle firing.

To go back to our blindfold analogy, the touch helps our body become more familiar with the neural pathway, just like as we get more familiar with a room in the dark we are able to find our way around and get to the light switch by remembering where things are.

As the neural pathway strengthens the muscles will fire more easily, more efficiently and with more speed until it becomes habitual. But it takes small, regular (ideally multiple times per day) to build these pathways up.

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