Anything neuro is a hot buzzword these days. The health and fitness industry seems to have finally embraced that all therapy and training is essentially brain-based. The Central Nervous System is the driver of the meat bag and nothing happens without its’ involvement. Understanding how neuroplasticity and functional movement interplay is ridiculously fun in practice.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections and pathways to adapt and change. Kids are amazing at this, the resilient littles. It was once thought that adult brains were unable to change, like this ability to rewire as needed suddenly stopped at a certain age and it became a rigid immovable mass of stubborn neurons. Thankfully, science, and we now understand that the process is fluid.
The brain learns and adapts in response to physical, environmental, or behavioral changes.
In physical traumas influencing functional movement, neuroplasticity becomes apparent in the way the body creates a compensation pattern to avoid injury to keep moving. If something hurts the most obvious choice is to stop doing the thing that hurts.
Neurons connect or reconnect to change the brain’s functioning with repeated stimulus. Input that is consistently supported with similar experiences, conscious and subconscious, real and perceived or predicted, will continue to have the same output.
Basically, you become proficient at being in pain or having movement restrictions, because your Systems are operating at an increased level of being on watch for and sensitive to these related experiences.
Using neuroplasticity to your advantage.
Neuroplasticity is all about learning and adapting so we can use that to our advantage when assessing and treating functional movement.
Repeated stimulus drives the focus. This can be both positive and negative. The adaptation or compensation patterns are both positive and negative as well. Positive in respect to changing a stimulus so the human is experiencing less pain while still being able to function. Negative in respect to this pattern becoming adopted as truth to the Systems and the result being the human becoming stuck living in the pattern and repeating the cycle.
As Practitioners, our goal working with these functional movement patterns is to identify the stimulus encouraging the cycle. We can reorganize the information coming in so that the information going out creates positive changes in reduced pain and improved function.
Neuroplasticity and Functional Movement relies on a commitment to repeated practice of physical and sensory stimulus to create positive change.
We need to rewire those neurons to create new connections. Give them something else to focus on and become obsessed with learning.
It takes considerable effort and commitment to create change. As Practitioners we only spend about 1% or less times involved with the recovery process. That means there is 99% of active learning time available outside of our clinics. Clients have considerable control over the benefits they achieve in this neuroconnectivity exercise.
In order to get better compliance with this reorganizing, we need to make sure that the activities are a novel experience so that the neurons light up and take interest in what is going on. With client input create an environment that is different than what they’ve been exposed to previously. If you are the next stop on a list of stops, please don’t do what everyone else did. Revel in being different.
It must be easy. If an activity is too complex, the resources are not going to where they need to go! The neurons will be spending too much time trying to figure out what is going on and debating among themselves if this is threatening or not instead of grasping the idea and growing with it. If the brain views it as work; IT’S WORK.
It must be enjoyable. Interventions and movement explorations need to be pleasurable. We humans are more inclined to follow through on things that feel good.
The process must be meaningful. If it’s obscure and has no perceived personal benefit to the client, what’s the point in it? A purpose that makes sense in the moment and weaves effortlessly into the client’s lifestyle is paramount to success.
Practitioners, I invite you to share some of your more creative ways to achieve success in influencing positive changes with neuroplasticity in your functional movement practices. The only way we grow is by sharing and learning together.