Muscle re-education is the process by which we teach our muscles how to act like they were before an injury. After most injuries, there is a rapid reduction in the muscle mass surrounding the injury. The muscles become weaker from non-use and sometimes stop functioning as needed. This is currently a process I am going through after my knee procedure.
Note: Muscle re-education is not muscle memory. The truth is muscle memory, in its literal meaning, doesn’t exist. Our muscles have no ability to store memories so therefore it would be impossible for them to remember anything. Our brains, however, have the ability to remember to tell our muscles what to do under a certain circumstance, so please stop using “Muscle Memory” it doesn’t mean anything. ~ rant over
Prior to my procedure, I had to change my gait, the way I walk, to decrease pain. Actually what was happening was I would have the patellar reflex, like the thing with a doctor and a hammer, trigger during a walk. My leg would hyperextend rapidly. The force generated from this type of activity is possible to tear an ACL so I was forced to walk with a more guarded posture. I basically had to think about walking and fire the muscles in the right order to prevent my knee from being forced into the rapid hyperextension.
Now that my knee is feeling better I still notice I am guarding my knee and still walking weird. Because of this concept, I have to start using muscle re-education to train myself to walk normally.
There are a few tactics to make this happen. The most common one used in physical therapy, occupational therapy and athletic training facilities is electrical stimulation. You basically put pads around the muscle that is not firing, crank up the voltage, and you actively fire that muscle at the same time it is being shocked by the machine. This is a VERY common practice for ACL rehabilitation.
Another way to do it is by using eccentric exercises. By using bigger weights the muscle has to respond accordingly to help prevent you from hurting yourself. Also, you get the added benefit of building muscle and getting stronger faster.
The way I am doing it and the way I have instructed people is to close their eyes and do the activity. When I am able to close my eyes and walk I start to notice where I am guarding. This allows me the ability to stop, take a deep breath, relax and just move into the movement. If I feel like I am guarding again I will repeat the process until I feel my right leg and left leg are performing the task the same. In this technique, it has a lot more to do with being very conscious of your bodies position in space and can take some time to figure out.
Finally, reactionary rehab is highly effective, I don’t recommend this if you aren’t being supervised by a certified rehabilitation specialist. Reactionary rehab is the process of reacting to a situation. This means if walking is the issue you would stand and have someone push you hard enough for you to lose your balance and require you to take a step. In this type of rehab you don’t have time to “think” about what your doing and your body will do what is natural. This can be extremely effective if done properly and under the right guidance.
Being injured sucks and the recovery period can take a long time. If you are stuck in your rehab message me and I will see how I can help get you through your stuckness.