This series (Part 1 and Part 2) has included exercise recommendations to self-manage neck pain, headache, upper back pain, and dizziness. This month’s topic involves enhancing coordination, which may be the most important topic in this three-part series!
Coordination-based exercises are important because they stimulate our neuro-motor system and can help restore normal function. We can all relate to the challenge of learning new activities. In many cases, we may struggle with the basics, but over time, they become easier to perform and we’re eventually able to accomplish these neuromuscular sequences without even thinking about it. When we are injured, we COMPENSATE and change our methods of doing the various tasks associated with our work and daily living. Unfortunately, these altered neuromotor sequences can become our “new normal” and can lead to other faulty compensatory motor functions (a negative vicious cycle). To “fix” this, we must First “Identify” the faulty pattern, Second “Fix” the faulty pattern consciously, Third “Practice” the new or proper method long enough so that, Fourth The proper/new/fixed method becomes automatic or “unconscious.” So, HOW do we re-establish proper motor function after an injury?
We can all start stimulating the neuromotor system by adding coordination-based components to our current fitness program. For example, when performing an exercise, release slowly but keep resisting. This “eccentric” resistance (resistance as the muscle elongates) builds coordination while the “concentric” resistance (resistance as the muscle shortens/contracts) builds strength. Apply this principle to ALL resistance exercises, and remember only use a light amount of resistance when exercising your neck muscles – only 10-20% of a maximum push! Another “principle” that is applicable to ALL exercises is to start simple and slowly add or integrate more complex movements or start doing two things at once (like pinch a ball between your knees or stand on one leg while performing your neck exercises). Be “mindful” or THINK about what you are doing to further stimulate the nervous system. Some other ways to add variety to your exercises include incorporating sitting on a gym ball, jumping, or standing on a rocker or wobble board. MAKE IT FUN and challenging! ALWAYS build on what you have previously mastered!