Activation, Cortical Remapping and what you are doing wrong to your people.

We are getting ready to step back into the studio to record podcast 58. We have been touching upon this topic off and on in the last 2 podcasts and we are going back in for more on pod #58 because this stuff is just too important not to beat it to a further pulp.  

The gist of this article is that cortical remapping occurs with injuries that are not 100% resolved. Lots of coaches and trainers out there are trying their hands at muscle “activation” and other new trendy tricks and they are missing the boat and making people worse if they are not doing a good sound clinical history and examination. You can activate any muscles and get what appears to be a miracle response, we can teach a 8 year old how to do activation and get a miracle response, but is it the right response or have you created a temporary compensation for your client (right before you send them into training or competition) ?  Activation is a 2 way street, there is the input into the brain and a corresponding motor output. If you are just rubbing out some muscles and get a stronger muscle test afterwards, and that is as far as your thoughts go before you turn your athlete loose, then you are a liability in the system. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution ?

Here are 2 paragraphs from this brilliant article. This is worth your time. As a client adapts to their unresolved, partially resolved (yes, even 95% is unresolved) injury(s) a secondary cascade of neurological changes ensue that often force new cortical remapping.  A remapping that is not as fundamentally safe or as sound as the pre-injury mapping yet one that is necessary for protecting further or other injuries. Yet, because it is not the original pristine pattern, it is also one that can begin undercurrents to corrupt other patterns of stability, mobility and movement in cortical and subcortical mappings. Understanding cortical excitability is important, and it can work for you and your client or against you both. It can be used for good or evil.  

If after you read these 2 paragraphs taken from the Alan Needle article in LER (link) you think you might be part of the problem or realize that you are not the magician you think you are, then good, you are on the track to self enlightenment and actually helping people.  Go read Alan’s article and breathe deep, ready to absorb and start yourself into understanding that you are really fixing the brain and not always the muscle, and that means you are gonna have to learn about the brain and how it works and more so how it can deceive you and your client and your training, treatments or therapy.

Come join us on The Gait Guys podcast 58 later this week as we delve into this topic deeper and more broadly.

Shawn and Ivo

PS: nice article Dr. Needle. Thank you !

“Recently Wikstrom and Brown proposed a hypothetical cascade of events that would affect an individual’s ability to “cope” following an ankle sprain and provide a rationale for the varying contributors to instability. For an individual starting from a point of normal function, a lateral ankle sprain will trigger a consistent pattern of changes to the joint from the inflammatory process. Swelling will increase pressure on the joint’s mechanoreceptors, and pain will contribute to inhibition of the reflexes to the joint (arthrogenic inhibition). Together, this means patients will have difficulty sensing the joint and subsequently stabilizing it while excessive mechanical laxity will increase this loss of stability.19

Inflammatory changes may be similar across all patients; however, as symptoms remain and the patient adapts after his or her injury, a secondary cascade of neurological changes may occur that may include cortical remapping. In some patients, these adaptations may be beneficial and serve to protect the joint from further injury. Other patients may maladapt, as sensorimotor reorganization changes the nervous system’s perception of the joint. Variable amounts of laxity, proprioception, and cortical excitability exist throughout populations of healthy, previously injured, and functionally unstable joints. Where these populations diverge may be related to how each is scaled relative to the others. For instance, a joint with greater amounts of laxity may have higher proprioception and excitability to aid in stabilizing the joint, but following injury, these factors may become decoupled, leading to errors in movement and coordination.19”  -Alan Needle, PhD