Neuromuscular Re-Education

This is a mighty big word for getting little-used muscles to work. I always ask my clients, “Can you feel that?” And, “Where?” I do this constantly because I often find that clients are not using the muscles I am hoping for in an exercise. For example, you can lift a straight leg backwards (behind them) with your gluteal muscles, your lower back or your hamstring. In lifting the leg forward, you can use the quadriceps, the lower back or the lower abs. In attempting a good deal of arm work, the arm muscles may be involved, or the back muscles and neck — even the jaw might get tense. So the question in each exercise is which muscle group should be the primary mover?

Neuromuscular re-education is designed to reinforce nerve signals for functional movements. It is theorized that when the nerve signals are “retrained” and appropriate muscle movements are repeated, movement patterns become automatic again. Neuromuscular re-education is a simple way to teach people how to use the correct muscle by providing exercises that retrain the neurological system to fire up the specific muscle you are trying to work.

We have so many muscles that just hang on for the ride. Many clients don’t actually feel their back muscles or know how to find them, unless they are painful. It’s kind of like earlobes, you don’t feel them until they are pierced. Many of us sit at a computer all day and have lost the ability to engage the glutes (“clinical diagnosis”: saggy bottom). Many of us use our neck to help with every exercise. Most of us use our toes to help lift our legs.

Neuromuscular re-education creates the ability to know your muscles and fire them up at will: little tiny ones and the big ones you already know about that are probably doing all the work. It helps to retrain the body to use muscles as intended rather than relying on a few large muscles as compensation for the little guys that forgot their job.

Forgotten or lazy muscles put a lot of strain on those muscles doing the work They have an important job to do, and without their support, shoulders don’t stay in their sockets, hips aren’t able to stabilize and support the back, and more. As one ages, ligaments and tendons loosen. You need muscles to keep things in place!

When one of my Pilates client says they can’t feel the muscle I want them to feel, I stop the Pilates exercise. I do a few minutes of targeted neuromuscular re-education and then go back to the exercise. The client then has full awareness of the muscle, knows how to engage it and can benefit from the Pilates exercise x10.

I will often spend the first few sessions learning which muscles a person is using and which they are not. Postural issues, lower back pain, upper back pain, neck pain, hip surgery, knee surgery or issues, arthritis, shoulder issues, and foot problems all have an element of muscle misuse. One muscle or group of muscles is doing all the work (and complaining about it!), and the surrounding/proper muscles have gone on vacation. At Pilates Pure N Simple, muscles work cooperatively to get the job they were designed for done!

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