The evidence for treating musculoskeletal pain has remained consistent over the years. It supports two basic aspects of physical therapy: to move your joints and to understand pain science. So why, early on in my career, was it so hard for me to successfully treat patients in pain? I guess moving without pain is harder than you might think. Just ask the old me that didn’t have access to a “zero-gravity” suspension exercise system.
Let me start off by explaining what happens to your body when you experience pain. I love to simplify the anatomy by discussing the differences between our inner and outer muscles. The inner muscles are our postural stabilizers that sit very close to the spine and other joints. They’re supposed to be on constantly to give our joints support for upright posture and functional mobility. These are smaller muscles that have lots of receptors to communicate with the brain. I use the analogy of cell phone reception and how difficult (and frustrating) it is to complete a call when you only have one signal bar. Pain has this same effect on how the brain and muscles communicate with each other.
When pain occurs, the connection to these inner stabilizer muscles gets disrupted or diminished. It's a process known as neuromuscular deactivation. Basically our body’s deep stabilizing system begins to shut down.
Subsequently, our outer muscles take over. These are the larger muscles that make you look good in the mirror. They are the outermost layer that turns on when asked to complete a task, such as lifting an object. Once the activity is done, they’re supposed to turn off and recover. However, if the inner muscles went dormant, the outer muscles will be recruited to pick up the slack and work overtime.
Basically the outer muscles are now doing two jobs: moving and stabilizing. But they are not built to stay on constantly like this. So it’s only a matter of time for them to throw in the proverbial “white towel” and say they can’t take it anymore. Typically this is the point when most people seek out my help.
To address these muscle imbalances and reverse the pain cycle, I use a system of ropes, slings and bungee cords that comes from Norway. It’s called the Redcord suspension system.
The science behind Redcord is known as NEURAC (NEURomuscular ACtivation). It's a method of rebooting the body's inner stabilizing system through proprioceptively enriched exercises. Essentially, by having you perform repeated joint motions in a "zero-gravity" environment, NEURAC tells your brain that it is safe to turn the stabilizers back on. It's like turning on a light switch to muscles that went dim from chronic pain and trauma.
Interesting concept, huh? Well, it totally blew my mind when I was initially introduced to Redcord and the NEURAC method back in 2007. It explained so much about why my patients would only feel better temporarily from traditional PT. The pain always seemed to come back. Little did I know that it was the outer muscles tightening up, because the inner muscles went dormant.
Here's a quick promo video we did to show the system in action...
To learn more about suspension based physical therapy, click here
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.