Inhibition and Facilitation

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Neural Reconnection Theory

NOTE: The term “neural reconnection” as used here is not a type of therapy, nor does it infer any specific form of therapy, but rather any type of manual therapy which proposes to return proper nerve communication between the brain and skeletal muscle. While the theory of musculo-neural reconnection/reactivation is highly debated among medical professionals due to insufficient objective scientific evidence (among other reasons), most practitioners feel enough subjective and other evidence may be present to warrant applying the theory in practice. Nonetheless, practitioners would likely appreciate seeing medical research done in this area, since many of them believe the protocols meet conditions required in common studies.

Neural reconnection is a variance on treating muscles and fascia of the human body using a simplified motor control theory of brain-muscle communication. In simple terms, (Note: Motor control theory is anything but simplistic and many theories exist.  To complicate matters, some theories borrow others work and hypotheses while ignoring still others. And some theories deal perfectly well with inanimate objects, not with biological beings. More in-depth reading on motor control theory can be found here and here.) the Motor Control Center (MCC) chooses the muscles used to conduct movement of the human skeleton, both in terms of gross and fine/complex movement. Within the choice of muscles, functional movement patterns are developed. We know this because we’ve found that no single muscle does any functional movement but, rather, vectors of muscle force (called kinetic chains) are developed through the body for movement to occur.

There are primary muscles in chains which the MCC expects to do work. For a variety of reasons, however, one or more muscles may not answer when called upon. These would then be considered “inhibited”, meaning the brain’s electrical communication with them is somehow incomplete or messages go unanswered. Since the movement must take place regardless, the MCC then chooses other muscles to do the work. Sometimes, the MCC looks local to the primary, inhibited, muscle. Other times, it looks farther afield. The brain does whatever it takes to make the movement happen. In other words, the brain compensates.

An important aspect of neural reconnection also uses the theory that the brain learns by first failing. Once a choice of muscles fail, the brain is open to learning a new way to choose a muscle for several seconds. During a treatment, the practitioner applies this theory in its protocols to get the brain to relearn proper muscle patterns it should choose instead of looking elsewhere. In this way, primary muscle’s neural connection is reestablished so the inhibition will disappear and the muscle will once again answer accordingly whenever called upon.

Muscle Inhibition and Facilitation

Skeletal muscle can become neurally inhibited or facilitated. These two terms within the context of neural reconnection strictly deal with two-way communication between the brain and a muscle via the central and peripheral nervous system. Inhibition means that neural connection is absent, bypassed, incomplete, weak, or overridden. Facilitation means that neural connection is strong, overactive, or hyperactive. A facilitated muscle can be considered the loud mouth in a crowd, yelling “pick me!” every chance it gets. It could also be just one in a crowd that the brain calls upon much more often than it should. Or, it could be a muscle that simply acts as it is supposed to.

Both inhibited and facilitated muscles can have the same feel when touching them. In other words, they can both feel tight or have a more relaxed, normal, feel. Both can be painful, but for different reasons. Both can also be non-painful.

Frequency of Inhibition or Facilitation

You may ask, how do I know if I have inhibited and facilitated muscles? More than likely, you can’t really tell the difference unless you’re very much in tune with your body. And even then, it may be difficult to determine. A practitioner must assess you to determine (1) whether there are inhibition and facilitation and (2) which muscles or muscle patterns are inhibited and facilitated.

You may ask, how often does inhibition happen? It is often not so much a start and stop type of condition as much as it can be a constant companion. Muscle inhibition and facilitation happens to everyone, regardless of your activity. Whether you’re a couch potato or an elite athlete or anywhere in between, chances are, you have muscle inhibition and facilitation going on. Even if you’re seeing a professional about this, inhibition and facilitation may still crop up because people often return to old, rehearsed patterns. Thus, neural reconnection can and should be considered in both acute or chronic cases.

Why Get Therapy If I’ll Naturally Regress?

The human body is amazing. It compensates in nearly every way possible in order for a person to carry on with their daily lives. Other natural examples of compensations are found in differences in leg length, eye strength, hearing ability, extremity strength, pelvic imbalances, muscle imbalances, skeletal misalignment, gravity, temperature variations, cardiac workload, limbic system imbalances, emotions, breathing, reproduction, etc.

Some examples of intentional compensations include athletic movement (such as breathholding, yelling, stomping the ground, making a face, feigning anger, etc), leaning, weight shifting onto one leg, bracing one arm with another, tilting the head, non-use of an injured body part, etc.

Muscle imbalances, along with other compensations, are actually fine. Fine, that is, until the variances become either evident or problematic. Sometimes, effects of compensations are cumulative; other times, not; still other times, they have a domino effect. Thus, muscle imbalances should be corrected if possible so that compensatory strain patterns don’t become “normal”. Eventually, pain and even more compensation results.