Massage & Bodywork

January/February 2011

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ESSENTIAL SKILLS NEURAL SIGNAL most readers will be familiar with the concept of an agonist (the muscle that is primarily responsible for generating a specific movement) and an antagonist (the muscle that acts in opposition to that movement). For instance, in hip extension, the gluteus maximus muscle is the agonist and the psoas is the antagonist. In a neutral position, the agonist and antagonist share a neural signal from the spinal cord. when one of these muscles contracts, the signal to the opposing muscle is inhibited. Thus, when there is ongoing, excessive tension in the psoas, the gluteus maximus fails to receive the neural signal it needs to do its job properly. One consequence of this is that the hamstring muscles, which are designed merely to assist in hip extension (as "synergists"), start to assume primary responsibility for that movement. This effect, called synergistic dominance, predisposes the synergist muscles to injury. It became clear that this client did need stretching, but in the psoas, not the hamstrings. As the shortened psoas was released, the neural signal to the gluteus maximus was restored, and the strain on the hamstrings lessened. At the same time, chiropractic work helped to mobilize the lumbar spine. The woman was able to get back to running, having broken the cycle of continual re-injury. A NEW, INTEGRATIVE PARADIGM The creators of Go Primal Fitness don't simply want to influence what we do with our clients; they also want to change how we think. When we're looking at injuries and pain conditions, it's easy to view the body in an isolated way, focusing on how each part works. Cambrea and White remind us that the body always functions as an integrated system. When we keep this integration The "Turkish Get-up" exercise requires many different integrated movements. While keeping the arm with the kettlebell vertical, the person must move through a complex series of positions—going from standing up to lying down, and then standing back up again—all while keeping the body in proper alignment. This exercise is extremely beneficial in building strength, coordination, and balance. in mind, we can see how all the various parts work together and notice where things start to break down. With more extensive and precise evaluations, we can go beyond understanding injuries and limitations to seeing the underlying causes that perpetuate those problems. And by using natural movements rather than artificial ones, we can make a much clearer connection between our therapeutic work and our clients' real life activities. As I've incorporated the Go Primal Fitness techniques and principles into my own private practice, I've learned that my colleague and former student was absolutely right— there was something important missing from my work. With the addition of this new system, I can offer my clients insights and practical solutions that were never before available to me. As Go Primal Fitness and similar programs gain in popularity, I look forward to seeing more practitioners enjoy these benefits. Using a pole helps to cue the client to maintain an appropriate balance of the spinal curves while developing core strength. In this plank exercise, the pole should touch the head, thorax, and sacrum only, with an inch or two at the lordotic curve in the low back (depending on the person's size and build). in education and sports medicine. He is founder of the Muscular Therapy Institute. Benjamin has been in private practice for more than 45 years and has taught communication skills as a trainer and coach for more than 25 years. He teaches extensively across the country on topics including orthopedic massage, Active Isolated Stretching and Strengthening, SAVI communications, and ethics, and is the author of Listen to Your Pain (Penguin, 2007), Are You Tense? (Pantheon, 1978), and Exercise Without Injury (MTI, 1979), and coauthor of The Ethics of Touch (Sohnen-Moe Associates, 2003). He can be contacted at 4bz@mtti.com. Ben E. Benjamin, PhD, holds a doctorate Editor's note: Massage & Bodywork is dedicated to educating readers within the scope of practice for massage therapy. Essential Skills is based on author Ben E. Benjamin's years of experience and education. The column is meant to add to readers' knowledge, not to dictate their treatment protocols. earn CE hours at your convenience: abmp's online education center, www.abmp.com 97

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