"Reactive Muscles?" - Get more benefits from your exercise program with less risk of injury!

Many of my new clients are amazed when introduced to Kinesiology for the first time. Jane was one such client. When I first started practicing as a Chiropractor and Kinesiologist I was working over in Perth and ended up seeing many of the players from the Western Australian netball team. Jane was one of them. Unfortunately netball places a lot of stress on the knees and Jane had had many recurring injuries on her right knee despite plenty of rehabilitative exercises and strengthening programs. She just couldn’t seem to get it to function properly on the court.

In this newsletter I wanted to discuss “Reactive muscles” and why they often lead to recurrent injuries despite our best efforts of strengthening and rehabilitation.  

As a Kinesiologist one of the things that may seem amazing to new clients is how a muscle that is testing weak or difficult to activate can instantly change when we fix or even just touch another seemingly unrelated part of the body.

Why is that?

While there can be a number of triggers for muscle weakness, “reactive muscles” are a common cause.

What are “Reactive muscles?”

Often Kinesiologists describe reactive muscles as the concept of when one muscle is switched on it essentially bullies other associated muscles to switch off or go weak.

When a muscle tightens it will create movement in a joint. A reactive muscle is often a muscle that goes weak (more accurately, neurologically switches off) when an associated muscle is too facilitated (tight or in spasm).

In my November newsletter (see here) we discussed the concept of muscles playing a protective role, overriding proper movement. Reactive muscles are an example of this. Interestingly, the muscles closer to our head seem to have an overriding effect on the muscles in the lower half of the body. I’m not exactly sure why this is but I expect it is because the spinal cord and brain are in these areas and the body would try to minimise stress placed on their ability to function optimally.

What are some common Reactive Muscle Patterns?

Some of the most common patterns we see are the muscles around the head and jaw becoming overly facilitated (tight), switching off muscles controlling the legs and pelvis.

The Gluteus Medius - Masseter muscle
The Quadratus Lumborum - Temporalis muscle
The Obturator Internus – Buccinators
The Psoas - Medial Pterygoids
The Adductors - Lateral Pterygoids
The Piriformis - Splenius Capitus Muscles

See diagram below for details;

muscles of mastication.jpg

So why is it important to fix Reactive Muscles?

Reactive muscles can create dysfunctional movement patterns when the body moves. When this is done repetitively it can be reinforced and put strain on muscles which can lead to events causing injury.

Going back to our example with Jane, she would present with a weak gluteus medius muscle on the right. This mean her knees would often twist inwards. The reason however, that her strengthening program didn’t seem to be helping her to prevent recurring injuries was because she was grinding her teeth at night. Biting down and grinding is usually due to the masseter muscle in her jaw being over facilitated.

While there can be many physical or emotional reasons for grinding your teeth at night, in Jane’s case it was related to not coping with a stressful job at the time. So we actually addressed this reactive pattern using a stress release technique called Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET). After a few sessions Jane was able to cope with the stress in her job more effectively and noticed a marked improvement in her jaw tension in the mornings. We also used a kinesiology soft tissue technique called muscle spindling to assist.

Consequently her right glut medius started to fire more and help to prevent her knee continually twisting giving her much more strength and confidence on the court.

Exercise and sport is something we should enjoy as well as get immense benefit from. However, the concept and exact nature of how “reactive muscles” can impact us is not known to many people. Unfortunately, even many professionals like personal trainers and rehabilitation specialists are still unaware of this form of neurological patterning which can lead to a lot of frustration for those affected.

If you know anyone that has recently embarked on a strengthening or training program or perhaps suffering from a recurrent injury - please pass on!

Yours in health,

r Mark Symonds

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


For more information or to book in for an appointment call me on 8667 3023!!