• JH

Getting Better...Better - Part 2

Last time we discussed why people should, and MUST be able to manage postural and external loads in order to improve pain and performance. Today we are going to start unpacking the "how" behind the why.

As we said last time -As our Ability to Manage Load INCREASES - Injury and Pain DECREASE and Performance INCREASES. This is a well-accepted fact within the fitness and medical communities. Almost any therapist or trainer will tell you that if your back hurts, core strengthening would probably be beneficial, or if you want to jump higher or run faster, getting stronger(read: improving load management skills) will only contribute to those goals.

HOWEVER, while these answers are not wrong, they often fail to complete the picture, leaving the patients and athletes stuck in frustrating cycle of injury - rehab - strengthen -perform - injury, ad infinitum. Improving our Ability to Manage Load, not only speaks to how MUCH load we can tolerate, but also to HOW we manage that load.

Enter Panjabi.

(Warning: Science Content)

In 1992, his research stated that the BRAIN(Neural control system) was ultimately responsible for what our bodies did with the postural and external loads that we faced in our activities of daily living, in sport and with work. The brain would sense the demands of the load at hand and come up the appropriate stabilization strategy.

These strategies could generally be classified into one of two sub systems: the Passive Stabilization System and the Active Stabilization System. However these two systems do not function as equals. When an individual joint or movement pattern is "Actively Stable" that means that muscles that act on that joint are either controlling the motion of the joint/s or resisting external forces imposed on the joint/s within the mid range of that joints Range Of Motion (ROM). When an individual joint or movement pattern in "Passively Stable" the body has lost its ability to control the motion of the joint and has found stability in the end range of the joint, using ligaments, tendons and joint capsules as "brakes" to provide control against external forces.

If that made your head spin, don't worry: you can try this little experiment to illustrate the concept.

Stand up and lock your knees. Now hop in the air and land without unlocking your knees( a little hop please, don't hurt yourself). Assuming you did not fall over, you just managed a postural load(you) with an external load(your jump) in a passively stable manner.

Now. Bend your knees and hop, landing with with your knees bent, as softly and quietly as possible. Felt way different didn't it? That time you used your muscles to absorb the external forces and provide stability to your joints.

Now, while that is a bit of an extreme example, it does a great job of illustrating how active vs passive stabilization strategies can act differently on joints, even though both provide stability and help you MANAGE load.

Unfortunately, often times the body can adapt passive loading patterns as primary strategies, whether due to injury, poor postural habits, or as a response to repeated physiological sympathetic stressors(read:fight or flight responses). To make matters worse well-meaning trainers and therapists often cue and instruct people into passive patterns in the name of "strengthening," providing a short-term stability solution but often leading to long-term complications. These postural patterns and strengthening patterns are often what contribute to the previously discussed sequence of injury - rehab - strengthen -perform - injury.

As always, it depends on the context - different people have different goals, different anatomy, and different medical histories. Next time, we will start to unpack what actively-stable positions look like at each major joint and how actively-stable fundamental movement patterns should present.

The goal is to help make you better. Better

If there is any specific topic you would like to see addressed or if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me(Jon) directly at or contact our clinic at 816-554-6003.

Thanks for reading!!

#getbetterbetter #physicaltherapy

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