What is Pandiculation and How is it Different from Stretching?
Foundational to the Method we teach is ensuring that you have a solid understanding of the difference between the Somatic technique of Pandiculation and the more common approach of stretching, and when each is appropriate.
Here we explain why Pandiculation is necessary when chronic patterns of tension and pain are present.
We invite you to explore this information. It will provide you with important understanding of the why and how of your Somatics and SomaYoga Practice to support your journey to a reduction of pain, improvement in your movement function and more ease in your sports and day to day activities.
Sensory Motor Amnesia
When we have lost the ability to voluntarily control the contraction and release of some or all of our muscles, we say we experience Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). Chronic or persistent patterns of tension and pain in the body reside in the brain, so to facilitate change in these patterns, a new learning process must involve the brain.
Did You Know?
Muscle memory is a mis-nomer. Muscles do not have memory.
It is the brain that sends and receives messages to control our muscles.
So if we want to improve muscle function, we must involve the brain.
SMA affects the sensory motor neurons of the cortex of the brain. When muscles are stuck in SMA or cannot lengthen fully at rest we experience the following:
Muscular soreness and joint pain,
Muscle weakness from constant hypertonicity,
Inefficient or compensatory movement due to a lack of communication with the cortex of the brain and other muscles,
Constant nervous system imbalance and energy drain,
Postural changes, improper walking and load transfer patterns that lead to joint problems, arthritis, bulged disks etc.
So what is Pandiculation?
The fundamental technique used in Clinical Somatics is called Pandiculation. Pandiculation is a quick and effective way to re-educate muscles or chains of muscles that are habitually tight and sore and the only way to truly address SMA in the body. It requires active participation of the brain (the control center of the nervous system) resulting in a re-setting of the resting muscle length and a change in your nervous system's habituated patterns.
Pandiculation involves the Sensory Motor Cortex of the Brain. Pandiculation involves
3 Simple Steps:
Step 1) Conscious contraction of a muscle or chain of muscles
Step 2) Slow, conscious lengthening of a muscles or chain of muscles
Step 3) The complete release and relaxation of the muscle, imprinting the felt sense of the muscle at rest.
The technique allows you to begin to regain your brain’s voluntary control over the contraction and release of your muscles and chains of muscles. Through repetition you are re-educating your muscles to contract and release well, beginning to restore optional muscle function. Through this process your muscles learn to release fully so they can return to their optimal length at rest. The result of this process is an increase in mobility, strength and stability across your entire body. As this happens tension and pain patterns shift and function improves.
We cannot stress enough that for our muscles to be functional they
need to be able to contract and release well.
Strengthening muscles that have SMA is pointless because this only adds tension.
Stretching non-functional muscles often invokes stretch reflex
exacerbating your habituated pattern.
Want to know why?
So, what happens when we stretch?
When a muscle spindle is stretched an impulse is immediately sent to the spinal cord and the spinal cord sends an impulse in response to contract that muscle. This is referred to as Stretch Reflex. This autonomic reflex is designed as a protective mechanism to prevent tearing of the muscles.
The muscle spindle is stretched and the impulse is also immediately received to contract the muscle, protecting it from being pulled forcefully or beyond a normal range.
The diagram shows how nerve impulses triggered by the stretch reflex only travel between the spinal column and the muscles.
Since the impulse only has to go to the spinal cord and back, not all the way to the brain, it is a very quick impulse. It generally occurs in 1-2 milliseconds.
The diagram above shows how nerve impulses triggered by the stretch reflex only travel between the spinal column and the muscles.
Stretch reflex is not controlled by the higher functioning centre of the brain. It is a monosynaptic response that is transmitted only to the spinal cord.
So let's keep learning...back to Pandiculation
When we consciously contract a muscle, the sense receptors within that muscle send information to the Sensory Motor Cortex of the brain to tell the brain that there has been a shortening of the muscle and change in the muscle length. The sensory motor neurons are responsible for our ability to sense and feel this action.
From this point of felt awareness, we can then begin to slowly decrease the level of contraction (lengthen the muscle) to bring the muscle to complete rest.
This process of sensing and feeling is also known as a re-education of the muscle in order to lengthen it.
This is the most important distinction of a pandiculation.
The process allows for full cortical control over changing the resting tonus of the muscles, which is why it is so effective in eliminating chronic muscular pain and changing postural and movement patterns across the entire body.
Below is a summary of the differences between Pandiculation and Stretching
Action involves the brain and central nervous system – sending new sensory information all the way to the brain.
Increases sensory motor awareness of the muscles involved, allowing you to regain control over your muscles.
Pandiculation feels great.
Active attention is required.
Eliminates Sensory Motor Amnesia – unlearning involuntary patterns of chronic holding or contraction.
Cultivates Interoception (the process of sensing and feeling from the inside out) and creates significant shifts in nervous system holding patterns, pain and trauma.
Only involves the spinal cord. Does not involve the brain.
Does not improve neuromuscular control, as the process does not involve the brain.
Stretching can be painful.
No attention required.
Does not address the underlying Sensory Motor Amnesia or chronic holding pattern.
Does not significantly affect the nervous system.
So to summarize a few key points...
Muscles should be long at rest. When muscles at rest are sitting in contraction, they use vital energy needed elsewhere in the body. The pattern of one muscle or chain of muscles that cannot release fully at rest leads to full body contractive reflex patterns, movement dysfunction and health symptoms over time.
We hope that this reading empowers you to explore pandiculation as your go to technique to alleviate muscle tension and pain.
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