The neuromuscular system is responsible for muscle activations that control the movement of the body.
The body’s muscular reflex actions (innate Protective Reflexes and conditioned reflexes), involve proprioception, which is the body’s ability to “sense” the relative speed and 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. In this regard, the phrase “use it or lose it” is often applied to the maintenance of optimal neuromuscular functional capabilities.
As noted above, our neuromuscular function is adaptive—regular use and environment hones our 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.
Environmental influences significantly affect our neuromuscular functional capabilities. For example, if an avid writer’s hand and wrist were put in a cast, that area’s functional capability would quickly adapt to the restriction and lack of stimulation by losing much of its “coordination” and strength capability. This lost function, or maladaptation, can be regained by consciously retraining functional movements through repetition so the affected area adapts in such a way that the function becomes reflexive again.
The definitions of habituation are: 1 – the gradual adaptation to a stimulus or to the environment; and, 2 – the extinction of a conditioned reflex by repetition of the conditioned stimulus (Dorland’s Medical Dictionary). That is, the nervous system has a built-in means of adapting to, and ultimately “ignoring,” unimportant and/or unchanging sensory input.
When we walk or run, optimal neuromuscular function and skeletal alignment are reliant upon a continuous source of disparate information, otherwise the nervous system will ‘habituate’ and ‘ignore’ a flow of unchanging sensory input. This habituation thus diminishes or even eliminates the appropriate motor output necessary for optimal neuromuscular gait mechanics. This is critical to appreciating the Variable Stimulus capacity of the BioPods Technology and the inadequacy of current custom, contoured, and cushioned insoles.
“Sweet Spot” Function and Healthy Adaptation
Everyone has a “Sweet Spot” for optimal musculoskeletal function and it is the point at which 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 neuromuscular conditioning by safely increasing the musculoskeletal structure’s functional robustness while 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.
Maladaptation and Degenerative Stresses
The body’s neuromuscular system maladapts when it is unable to safely manage stressors that exceed its conditioned functional capabilities. Maladaptation, in the form of atrophy and/or weakening, can develop in response to a lack of stressors.
Most individuals, regardless of genetic predisposition, exhibit maladapted Protective Reflex functions in proportion to their daily activities and environment.
In a sports training context, “Poor Technique” conditions a less than optimal version of musculoskeletal function, promotes maladaptation, encourages degenerative stress, increases injury risk, and hampers performance capabilities. Over time, lack of sufficient neuromuscular activity will also result in diminishing “Sweet Spot” capabilities and maladaptive function.
In these situations, when stressors that are created during functional use exceed the “Sweet Spot,” they push structural function beyond safe or healthy tolerances. The resultant degenerative stresses can cause, exacerbate, or otherwise contribute to systematic breakdowns and disease.
Engaging in daily “Poor Technique” activities causes maladaptive changes as the body attempts to compensate for the degenerative stressors and neuromuscular and mechanical inefficiencies. In addition to possible joint and muscle stiffness and pain, this leads to more pronounced and local/global imbalances in:
Often, maladaptive neuromuscular 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.
Aside from severe genetic deformities and acute trauma, the majority of foot, leg, hip, and back problems and pain are caused by functional maladaptations that have become reflexive. 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, which expands their “Sweet Spot” capabilities. By employing repetitive “Proper Technique” activities, the body’s proprioceptive and reflex systems readapt so that healthier optimal function becomes reflexive. This is the underlying principle that virtually all modern rehabilitation and sports training programs are based upon.
Optimal Neuromusculoskeletal Gait Mechanics
Optimal neuromusculoskeletal mechanics are typically and exclusively observed within individuals who are in a habitual barefoot environment. When barefoot, the sole of the foot picks up the subtle variations in terrain (texture and orientation) and this tactile stimulus from the ground is not dampened. The brain uses these tactile stimuli, in concert with the proprioceptive stimuli received from the feet, ankles, legs, hips, and back to initiate protective muscle activations throughout the lower limbs such that they are capable of safely managing the dynamic forces generated by the demands of three-dimensional activities. When barefoot, the foot is unfettered and thus there is no restriction to the dynamic musculoskeletal movement. When barefoot, the foot receives “Right Stimulus” and “Right Movement” is uninhibited as a result. The barefoot “Proper Technique” environment also enhances the “Sweet Spot” capabilities in the feet, legs, hips, and back.
Maladapted Neuromusculoskeletal Gait Mechanics
Maladapted neuromusculoskeletal mechanics are typically and exclusively observed within individuals who habitually wear shoes and/or products that support or cushion the feet. When shod, cushioned, and/or supported, the sole of the foot fails to pick up the subtle variations in terrain (texture and orientation) and, therefore, tactile stimulus from the ground is dampened. As a result, the brain fails to receive the sensory information required to initiate protective muscle activations throughout the lower limbs such that they are capable of safely managing the dynamic forces generated by the demands of three-dimensional activities. When shod, cushioned, and/or supported, the foot is also fettered and, therefore, dynamic musculoskeletal movement is restricted. When shod, cushioned, and/or supported, the foot receives “Poor Stimulus” and “Right Movement” is inhibited. This “Poor Technique” environment diminishes “Sweet Spot” capability in the feet, legs, hips and back.