A Surprising Reason For Exercise Related Injuries...

In 2009-10, 64% of Australians aged 15 years and over had participated in sport or physical recreation at least once within the last 12 months. Almost half (47%) of the people who had participated within the last 12 months (or 30% of all adults) had done so regularly (more than twice a week). Source - ABS

While exercise is vital for our health there are also some risks associated with it. Musculoskeletal injuries are by far the most common, and in this newsletter I wanted to outline some of the lesser known causes of workout / exercise related injuries.
Many of my new clients are surprised to learn that their muscular system plays two key roles. The first, and obvious role is to allow us to move. The second less obvious role is for protection.
All muscles either directly or indirectly will have an influence on our skull or spinal column. All muscles attach themselves to a bone via tendons which will ultimately have an influence on how we hold ourselves through our posture. The other interesting fact to know about muscles is that they will adapt to the position they are in the most.

So what are our muscles trying to protect?

All muscles are under the control of the nervous system. The nerves of the body are like our wires of communication helping us adapt and survive in our environment either consciously (such as movement) or unconsciously (such as say our organ function). All of the nerves in the body inevitably connect messages to our spinal column which is like the super highway to our brain. The brain is like the central processor receiving information from the body and then sending appropriate responses back out. It really is a two way system.

The spinal column and vertebrae help to protect the spinal cord, which has to move as we walk, run and go through the activities of life. That movement occurs through the muscles.

Muscular protection will occur if the joints are for some reason under stress and have the potential to irritate the nerves or spinal cord.

Muscular protection will always take priority over normal movement patterns.

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 How do you know if there is a protective muscular reaction occurring in the body?
Often you don’t. This is because the body has a highly effective muscular recruitment system. That is it will stimulate other muscles that may be able to assist so you can go on doing things with minimal disruption. However, it does come at a cost.

When your muscles are in recruitment you are essentially using a muscle that is the second or third choice. This means that the movement you wish to do becomes less efficient and more of a stress or strain to undertake. If you have multiple muscular systems that are in protection and then you try to work out, engage in sport or repetitive movements then you will do so using much more energy than you should and with a much higher risk of injury.

One of the biggest concerns personal trainers have with new clients undergoing a new exercise program is injury. Unfortunately for them and you they are not highly trained in detecting and correcting muscular protective recruitment patterns. Good personal trainers will however notice a lack of progress or an inability to carry out the desired technique and modify your workout regime.

So how do you correct muscle recruitment and protective patterns?

As a Chiropractor and Kinesiologist it is likely that my approach would be quite different from what you could expect from a Physiotherapist or Massage therapist. I am particularly interested in the neuromuscular function - or how well the muscles are being coordinated by the nervous system. This is key when dealing with the issue of protection. There are a number of techniques that can be used to assist;

  • Spinal adjustments; Have an effect on the nerves, muscles and joints and help ensure they can function correctly.

  • Muscle spindling; Ensuring that the muscle cells are in an optimal position to contract and relax

  • Micro-tendinous avulsion; This is where the tendon can fray a little bit like an old rope and cause the associated muscle to switch off and test weak.

  • Neurolymphatic / Neurovascular reflexes; Reflexes associated with proper muscle function.

  • Key postural reflexes; Cloacal, tonic neck reflexes etc effect the feedback to our brain and have a big influence on how we hold our posture.

In summary, ‘Postural defense’ can lead to a higher chance of workout / exercise related injury due to more ineffecient musculoskeletal function. If we are able to use techniques to get the body out of defense, the body/mind can respond to its environment with greater ease, and employ those strategies which promote higher intelligence, growth, and healing.

Feel free to share this with friends or family that may love their workouts or are starting a new "Spring" health kick!


Yours in health,

Dr Mark Symonds

BChiroSc, MChiro, C.C.W.P., NLP Master Coach