Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is out of balance. Yet often where we experience pain is not necessarily at the place of the movement limitation.
If we consider the body and muscles as an elaborate system, then when one area of the body is stuck tight and short, it is plausible that this area of tightness can pull, tug or restrict movement and inhibit proper functioning in other parts of the body.
Somatics explains that muscles become habituated short and tight in response to stress, repetitive strain and injury. Muscles essentially fail to function well - which means that they no longer contract fully and release fully. This loss of our brain’s voluntary control over our muscles is called Sensory Motor Amnesia.
This is where an understanding of Reciprocal Inhibition plays a huge role in understanding limited function and pain. Reciprocal Inhibition is a key principle that we teach to each client that walks in the door or signs up for one of our services.
Reciprocal inhibition says that when an agonist muscle contracts, its opposing muscle, the antagonist needs to release - as in the quad-hamstring relationship, the bicep-tricep relationship and most importantly the flexors muscles of the body (front body muscles) - to the extensor muscles of the body (back body muscles).
Going back to what we said about muscles getting stuck short due to Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA), the relationship between muscles called Reciprocal Inhibition becomes interrupted. Essentially what happens is that neither the agonist or antagonist muscles contract or release fully, preventing optimal function.
What is important to understand is that in movement everything is about relationships. We cannot focus just on the back muscles that are in pain. We must look at how the belly muscles are functioning in relation to the back line, and get them functioning well, so that the back muscles can lengthen and release when the belly muscles shorten. The goal is to improve efficiency of all the muscles involved to improve the functional relationships across the whole body.
Here is a common example, abdominal weakness can often be the result of back muscles being so habituated short and tight and “offline” that they inhibit the ability of the belly muscles to contract. This presents as a pooched belly, or weak abs. In fact what is really going on is that the Reciprocal Relationship between the abdominals and the back muscles is dysfunctional.
As we mentioned last week, this is why a weekly and regular Somatics or Somayoga practice is essential to reboot our muscles, keeping them online and functional for all of our favourite activities such as yoga, pilates, running, biking, skiing, golfing, and life.
You can get started with us by visiting our YouTube Channel where you can start exploring Somayoga practices. Then from there jump onto our Video on Demand Channel and let us support you to build a sustainable home practice.
Thanks for reading.