When we watch how people move we get a sense, a qualitative sense, of grace, ease or over effort, rigidity, stiffness in just a few moments. The first time a new person enters your workspace is a great opportunity to gather information about how they move.
Prof. Vladimir Janda would sit at his desk at the Charles University Hospital in Prague and invite a new patient to enter. As they would walk across the room to sit at his desk for history taking I observed Prof. Janda to have completed most of his evaluation by the time the new patient ambled over. They appeared speechless as he inquired about their specific maladies before a speck of history was even taken. Sometimes he would take the history, mostly to please the patient.
I knew at that moment my life was turning in a way I had never imagined and could never get enough of, ever.
Years later, when I was assisting Prof. Janda in his North American seminars he remarked that it took him only 50 years or so to know that what he was seeing was actually so. He was confident in his assessments just as a mountain knows its’ place.
That was the first time I heard the term Human Locomotion from a systems perspective that was to serve not just the study of but the improvement of human locomotion and with budgets that dictated low tech nearly the entire way compared to North American standards.
The study of human function by necessity has to compartmentalize each discipline to better understand it. Lewit and Janda and their mighty colleagues attempted to see and understand human locomotion much as cardiology, nephrology, pulmonology seeks to demystify those functions. In fact Lewit stated that because much of the organ system is incapable of reporting dysfunction from within its’ own borders the locomotor system is recruited to receive messages for the benefit of the interior. Many body aches and pains originate from the organs and in order to be a good diagnostician from the somatic perspective one must be knowledgeable enough in all the other camps that send signals that need differentiating. No small task.
As we evolve in our bodywork profession we seek tools to leverage success. Experience allows us to take broader strides in applying an array of techniques hard won over years of study. We ‘feel’ better and so our patients and clients feel better as well.
We suggest to you that those with the most techniques do not necessarily win but that when there are organizing methods, techniques take their rightful place at the table; that is to serve Principles and therefore to better aid our clients and patients.
Gravity organizes or disorganizes movement, the principle of least effort is a gold standard, awareness precedes control is a gimme.
The patterns of movement that we will begin to look at are recognized; the challenge is in unlocking their meaning in our work. Infants develop, when they are healthy, in predictable processes and timelines. We can use this understanding and extrapolate those developmental anti-gravity and stability functions to adults in a similar manner.
Reflex Locomotion has the potential to elicit instructions for movement that are hardwired at birth. We civilized folks are relentless in the ways we pollute and corrupt these original intentions by simply living. We are not yet perfect, perhaps we are perfectly imperfect and having an insurance policy is not an entitlement to good health.
When these primitive patterns are successfully activated, even momentarily, movements are organized, joints are ideally aligned ‘centrated’ if you will, easy breathing is released and we are given a thread to follow if we can.
I will say, however, that if you didn’t play the violin before entering the room you will likely remain that way until some learning is done. Sometimes the work is learning not to work so hard unnecessarily. So, patterns of learning must be understood as well.
Studies have revealed other patterns that can be subsets. Andre Vleeming has furthered the loops and slings of SIJ stabilization and the contribution of the pelvic floor. Before that Benninghoff was a leader in espousing the deeper connection of anatomical loops and slings even when the connection seem tenuous. Kolar took Vojta, Baniel championed Feldenkrais, PNF begins to look suspiciously familiar when examined from this patterned perspective. It’s not a co-incidence.
We will openly share with you what we have experienced in our work and hope that it gives you pause and reason to expand your world as well.
In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.
A reflex loosely defined is an automatic instinctive unlearned reaction to a stimulus. The advantage of reflex locomotion is that it eliminates the filter of cortical input. Theoretically these creeping, crawling and turning reflex movements are available to spinal cord intact mature humans. While they can be voluntarily shut down they are not interfered with by the cortex on elicitation as voluntary movements are.
Reflex locomotor movements may appear marginally different on different subjects but are identical in their intent. That is, to create a perfectly stable anti-gravity environment within. The very moment the switch is flipped to ‘voluntary’ a constellation of history, experience and interpretation takes over the controls and individual variability rules. Even if it grossly looks the same, organization and effort is vastly changed as to be a fingerprint from another human, yet we all have fingers in common. Like the admonishment to the actor, ‘If you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made’.
These idealized reflex patterns become the touchstone for all the voluntary movements that follow. That is the great divide. We add voluntary/cortical and we are taking some form of scenic route by comparison. Even the rapid response form of training using quick balance demands in SensoriMotor treatment is ultimately a learned response.
RL response is the EasyPass to more mature movements. It is not the movement itself per se but the background foundation to build Posture, Gait, Prehension, Respiration and Orofacial mechanisms that may be considered vital functions. Yes, there are many other ways to achieve these goals and in fact training is nearly always a follow up to RL but the training ideally must match the intent of the RL and that is where the algorithm can turn into a bird’s nest of chaos and entropy.
Strength. That’s the answer most people give when asked, ‘Why exercise?’.
To some extent that is the easy, down and dirty answer. It’s surely part of the process, but I wouldn’t want to be an adhesives expert and sell only Scotch tape.
One of the strategies currently being recommended for self care in acute low back pain is corseting/co-contraction. With muscle tension already present in the back the idea is to create an equal and opposite force in the front to limit movement and allow the days activities to move on however possible. Patients are taught to roll like a log, breath holding may be involved or not and ranges of motion are cautioned to remain ‘in the Neutral Zone’ as much as possible. This not a bad idea but with the same attention to timeliness in the clinic the patient can be taught to normalize adverse (too much or too little) tension, create less demanding strategies to move during the acute stage and only use the more draconian Iron Maiden on steroids approach when necessary. In the bottom of the ocean I am appreciative of the lead boots that aid my explorations. I wouldn’t Tweet that I was wearing them on the street as therapeutic fashion wear.
This unchecked bracing can become a default first line strategy for any future episode or even a way to move through the day when not in distress. Much like the abuses of Prozac, a short-term fix becomes a way of life and the two elephants at the ends of the seesaw get heavier and heavier in order to balance each other out.
Zooming in and zooming out allows a focused attention to subject matter. Zooming in for detail or microcosmic factoids, out for the big picture, to see further reaching but relative values. What roles do we play? In the microcosm of our studio/clinic we deal initially with issues of the tissues. Stepping back we know that skin tone & texture is a mirror into the status of the central nervous system, the Mother Ship. There isn’t a thing that happens on board that Mother isn’t aware of in some way and if Mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy.
As bodyworkers we should know that altering body position can reveal a change in tissue tension. Supine, prone, side lying can position fibers at or near end point and/or offer access points and paths to better approximate or lengthen. Try it…you’ll like it.
It could be argued that passive care attempts to mimic the effects of good movement in the tissues, assuming one knows what ‘good’ tissue tone is. A kind of build it and they will come re-set/re-boot button.
We will be recommending different ways to move and position your clients that are not the usual latke posture, prone or supine.