Movement and The Brain
Would you care to elaborate on how you enhance neuroplasticity after an increased ranged of motion is gained by someone who just recieved soft tissue work. Mobility drills, end range isometrics with arm drivers, etc.
All the best,
Thank you for your question. I can’t say that I am a “brain” or neuroscience expert – there is so much too know – but I do enjoy reading and learning about it. I strongly urge you to check out “The Body Has A Mind of Its Own”by Blakeslee and Blakeslee, “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge, and The Brain Science Podcast by Dr. Ginger Campbell.
Regarding the arm drivers and mobility drills, I talked a bit about this in the Fascia and Exercise post that I did several months ago.
Our body schema has to do with the way in which our brain interprets our body maps based on information coming in from things like skin, joints, muscles, viscera, etc. When our proprioception is negatively affected – from pain, poor movement, disease, injury, fear, etc – our body maps change. Movement training is one of the ways we can re-establish the appropriate body maps, thus improving overall movement quality. In “The Body Has A Mind Of Its Own”, page 37, Blakeslee and Blakeslee note, “When you work with instructors of dance, yoga, tai chi, Pilates, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, or dozens of other kinds of movement training, you are basically working on body schema awareness. These methods teach you to purposefully attend to the many core elements of your schema as a means of self-exploration.”
It is this “self-exploration” that I believe we are trying to enhance when performing the various mobility drills following soft tissue therapy. Obviously there are many hypotheses as too the way in which massage therapy actually improves an individuals movement - actual changes in tissue, changes in the brain, decreased fear, a placebo effect, expectation that something positive has happened, etc. Whatever the reason, I am of the opinion that soft tissue massage therapy is effective in increasing the individuals awareness and proprioception. However, we can’t just leave it at that. We need them to own it and develop the movement pattern on their own. This is where mobility drills and specific exercises come in handy. I believe in choosing the movements for an individual based on what my findings are with either the FMS or SFMA. From there, I choose the exercises and drills I want to focus on with the goal being to improve the specific pattern that we have found to be the “weak link”.
In a recent paper published in the journal of Manual Therapy, Bourdreau, Farina, and Falla discuss neuroplasticity and motor learning. More specifically, they go into the importance of “novel motor-skill training” as a way to enhance neuroplasticity following pain or injury. They state, “Given the evidence that novel motor-skill training is associated with rapid changes in cortical excitability as well as cortical re-organization, this training is relevant for treating patients with musculoskeletal pain.” They additionally state, “In novel motor-skill acquisition, cortical neuroplastic changes are often accompanied by behavior deemed to be advantageous, such as increases in motor performance. Finally, they summarize by saying, “Novel motor-skill training should be advocated upon the first presentation of pain symptoms so as to reduce the risk of further and unfavorable neuroplastic changes that are known to occur in association with pain.”
A principle of the SFMA is that you don’t train the painful patterns, but rather attempt to improve the dysfunctional non-painful patterns. Perhaps this is the novel stimuli that the brain needs to begin to establish neuroplastic changes and enhance body schema? Because the pattern you are trying to improve is dysfunctional, meaning not meeting a minimum standard, any corrective interventions you try and impose on that pattern can be thought of as “novel”.
In a non-painful training environment, we use the FMS. Again, we have a hierarchy of what we want to correct first, and choosing a set of exercises that address those needs can be thought of also enhancing body schema (like Feldenkrais, Pilates, or The Alexandar Technique, listed above). Soft tissue therapy is commonly used prior to performing the exercise intervention to help improve the individuals proprioception and free up movement (again, either soft tissue wise or brain wise) which can then be trained. Similar to the WD-40/Duct Tape model that Gray Cook has talked about, where you use some manual therapy (or foam rolling if manual therapy is not available to you) and mobility work to “WD-40″ the joint and enhance mobility and then tack it down with some stability, the “Duct tape”.
Small changes over several sessions can lead to a large change in a movement pattern and hopefully enhance function of the overall system. Hope that helps answer your question!