Neuromuscular Mechanics - A Simplified View

Neuromuscular and Skeletal Adaptation

The body's neuromuscular and skeletal systems continually adapt to the way we use our bodies. How we regularly use our bodies and the environments we use them in determine our overall functional capability.

For example, challenging the body with regular exercise causes it to adapt by strengthening and becoming more capable. Conversely, the body will also adapt to a lack of exercise by weakening and becoming less capable.

Integral to our body's functional capabilities are the neuro networks that first collect sensory information through touch, pressure, pain, and spatial positioning before sending signals to trigger muscle activations. These neuro networks also adapt to challenges imposed, or the relative lack of sensory information, by usage and environmental influences.

Illustration by Marta Aguayo, used under License CC BY-SA 3.0 

Proprioception and Reflexes

The "coordination" of our limb and body movements is determined by proprioceptive sense or "Proprioception." Whenever we move, the body’s neuromuscular and skeletal systems are involved.

Neuromuscular Function

The neuromuscular system is responsible for muscle activations that control the movement of the body. The phrase “use it or lose it” is often applied to neuromuscular functional capabilities.

The body's muscular reflex actions, such as its innate Protective Reflexes and conditioned reflexes, involve proprioception, which is the body’s ability to "sense" the relative position of its neighboring parts and the degree of effort being employed in movement. Proprioceptive movements can either be conscious or unconscious (reflexive). With sufficient regular repetition or training, conscious proprioceptive movements gradually become unconscious.

Our ability to walk or run safely and efficiently is determined by synergistic proprioceptive and reflex function through the feet, legs, hips, and back.Conditioned Responses

Proprioceptive abilities are adaptive; regular use and environment hones their functional capabilities. Examples of this are learning to write, walk, swing a club, catch a ball, or drive a car. Initial conscious focus on the activity gives way to unconscious and reflexive movement through repetition.

Similarly, the body's protective reflex responses are conditioned through use. Protective reflexes can be triggered by a variety of sensory stimuli, such as touch, vision, and fearful anticipation (psychological). Brush your hand too close to a flame and it will reflexively pull away. Trip and fall and, before you can think, your hands will reflexively reach out to protect you from impact. However, when an experienced driver in the passenger seat of a car reacts to perceived danger by reflexively pressing a non-existent brake pedal, that is consciously trained Protective Reflex in action. By repeatedly practicing a new response of sufficient intensity and duration, you can modify a reflexive proprioceptive movement or reaction to an alternative adaptation.

Environmental Influences

Environmental influences significantly impact proprioceptive and protective reflex functional capabilities. For example, if an avid writer's hand and wrist are put in a cast, that area's functional capability will quickly adapt to the restrictiveness and lack of stimulation by losing much of its "coordination" and strength capability. This lost function or maladaption can be regained by consciously retraining the proprioceptive movements through repetition so that area adapts to where optimal function becomes reflexive again.

Sweet Spot Function and Healthy Adaptation

Everyone has a “sweet spot” for optimal musculoskeletal function, which is the point where stressors actually enhance the capabilities of the body. This is known as healthy stress. Each individual’s Sweet Spot Function is encouraged and enhanced by activities that promote a balance of strength and flexibility in opposing muscle groups at the joints.

Daily activities or movements that encourage Sweet Spot Function lead to optimal proprioceptive conditioning by safely increasing the musculoskeletal structure’s functional capabilities and reducing the risk of injury and degenerative stress. In the world of athletics, this is also known as “training with proper technique.”

Even those with severe genetic deformities or those who have suffered irreversible debilitating trauma, joint fusion, or similar ailments, will have an optimal functional sweet spot, though these capabilities may be limited.

Maladaption and Degenerative Stresses

The body maladapts when it is unable to safely manage stressors that exceed its conditioned functional capabilities. Maladaption in the form of weakening, can develop in response to the lack of stressors.

Most individuals, regardless of genetic predisposition, exhibit maladapted Proprioceptive and Reflex function in proportion to their daily activities and environment.

In sports training, "poor technique" conditions less than optimal musculoskeletal function, encourages maladaptation and degenerative stress, increases risk of injury, and hampers performance capabilities. In this situation, stressors created during functional use exceed the sweet spot by pushing structural function beyond safe or healthy tolerances. The resultant degenerative stresses cause, contribute to, or exacerbate systematic breakdowns and disease.

Engaging in daily poor technique activities causes maladaptation as the body attempts to compensate for the degenerative stressors and proprioceptive and mechanical inefficiencies, which leads to imbalances of:

1. strength and weakness;

2. flexibility and inflexibility; and

3. stiffness and pain at the joints or in the muscles.

Often, maladaptive proprioceptive and mechanical functions remain reflexive long after the actual stressors have ceased or been retrained away.

Some soft tissue and bone tissue damage will present obvious symptoms, while some fibrosis and scar tissue may be symptom-free. The inelastic nature of fibrotic or scar tissue further contributes to maladaptive function.

Aside from severe genetic deformities and acute trauma, the majority of foot, leg, hip, and back problems and pain are caused by functional maladaptions that have become reflexive and the related degenerative stresses this causes. These conditioned reflexive inefficiencies impair the body's ability to safely manage increased activity.

Therapeutic programs that incorporate proper technique are the most effective means to safely retrain the reflexive maladapted function in the feet, legs, hips, and back. By employing repetitive proper technique activities, your body's proprioceptive and reflex function re-adapt so that healthier optimal function becomes reflexive.

BioPodsTM - The rehabilitative alternative

The Proprioceptive Protective Reflex Mechanisms of the Lower Limbs

Proprioceptive Protective Reflex mechanisms are responsible for bone alignment and muscular stabilization in the feet, legs, hips, and back. An unrestrictive environment fosters ideal alignment for a balance of strength and flexibility to effectively reduce stress and strain throughout.

Proprioceptive mechanisms and reflex function in these areas are synergistic. What affects each area has a corresponding effect on other areas. When functional mechanics adapt or maladapt through repetition and become reflexive, all areas are affected equally.

Effects of Conventional Footwear

Almost all conventional footwear interferes with healthy natural foot function to some degree. This is particularly true of footwear that restricts how high the toes and arches can rise upward, provides extra support and cushioning, and has excessive motion-control features. Over time, these restrictive and less stimulating footwear environments cause the feet to maladapt, which is a leading cause of most foot-related problems.

BioPods Stimulate to Strengthen and Revitalize

BioPods are designed to encourage healthy protective reflex function and work in harmony with the natural dynamic movement of the feet. They do not attempt to artificially support, cushion, control, or restrict the feet. When using BioPods insoles, lace your shoes shoes more loosely to allow room for adequate foot flexion.

BioPods insoles and footwear provide a safe “spring-like” variable stimulus under the center of your arches that continually engages and optimizes your body’s Protective Reflexes in the feet, legs, hips, and back when walking, running, or other weight-bearing movement.

Regular variable stimulus challenges the body's natural protective reflex mechanisms and causes them to adapt towards healthier function. Even though the stimulus is under the sole of the foot, it affects proprioceptive and reflex function up through the feet, legs, hips, and back.

Soft Tissue Adaptation Phase

When using BioPods for the first time, the body's neuromuscular systems will undergo a Soft Tissue Adaptation Phase as the feet, legs, hips, and back respond to BioPods stimulus. As with any neuromuscular muscle training, the Soft Tissue Adaptation Phase takes approximately 6-8 weeks for most individuals but can take longer for those sufferers noted below. During this period, it is normal to experience transitory twinges or tightness in various areas at different times. It is during this period that latent historical scar tissue or fibrosis may become noticeable in the form of soreness. Seek advice from medical professionals who specialize in soft tissue mobilization, as noted below, if soreness persists.

Please Note:

BioPods do not treat already damaged tissue, such as scar tissue or fibrosis that has been caused by trauma or maladaptation related degenerative stresses from poor foot mechanics and function. Damaged tissues can be treated by a medical professional with complementary conventional mobilization therapies such as ultrasound, deep tissue massage, A.R.T. (Active Release Technique), or Graston Technique, as appropriate.

RECOMMENDATION for sufferers of chronic myofascial pain, fibromyalgia, plantar fibrosis, or multiple trigger points:

It may take longer to adapt to BioPods stimulus. It is possible that enough inelastic scar tissue or fibrosis has developed to cause transient pain or “sticking points” that will reveal themselves during the Soft Tissue Adjustment Phase. In these instances, a medical professional can apply a regime of complementary soft tissue mobilization therapies such as ultrasound, deep tissue massage, A.R.T. (Active Release Technique), Graston Technique, etc., to break down the scar tissue or fibrosis and restore elasticity to the soft tissues for full mobility.

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