A corrective exercise program encompass a wide range of movement modalities specifically created for your body, based on your injuries, chronic conditions and movement patterns. Corrective exercises help maintain alignment: the more you practice them, the stronger you become. Corrective exercises also help the body regain its correct muscle memory, range of motion, and restructure incorrect movement patterns that the body may have adopted due to injury or chronic misuse. A corrective exercise program may involve simple tools such as a foam roller and resistance bands. Almost all corrective exercises can be accomplished in the comfort of your own home. Perhaps the most important function of a corrective exercise program is to help your body heal so that you can prevent re-injury and so that you can maintain your chiropractic adjustment for longer periods of time. The goal of a corrective exercise program is to bring you back into alignment, so that only see your chiropractor once in awhile for a “tune up,” rather than for chronic pain and weakness.
Modern Work Habits and Upper Body Corrective Exercises
Visualize, for moment, a commonly tense muscle group – your trapezius, a muscle that is involved in moving, rotating and stabilizing the scapula (shoulder blades.) The trapezius runs along the sides of your neck, across and down your shoulder blades and attach to the upper thoracic vertebrae of the spine, forming “V”, and this muscle is tasked almost all day long in modern life.
Research shows us that the trapezius significantly increases in size anytime we are doing work with our eyes – specifically, visually demanding near work. (Near work encompasses any activity done at a short working distance such as reading, studying, writing, doing homework, watching TV, or playing video games, etc.)
Think about this – anytime you work at your computer, which is most of us, for about 8 hours a day, you are increasing the size of and most likely straining your trapezius muscle.
Add to this mix the strain that most of us do with our forward leaning head posture when we are doing near work activity. Perhaps add in a tight, “frozen shoulder” or perhaps mild carpal tunnel syndrome… all results of repetitive work flow. Put this all together and what emerges is a massive imbalance in muscular activity and movement patterns, all around your neck and shoulders.
You probably adjust the way you sit, work, drive and move to slightly accommodate this discomfort, and do so with poor posture and alignment, perhaps creating something entirely new, now that’s also bothering you – perhaps low back pain due to sitting off-kilter, and not evenly on your pelvis and ischial tuberosity, also known as your sitz bones.
So now you’re tense all over, but not in tremendous pain. You decide to visit your chiropractor, maybe get a percussor treatment, a spinal adjustment and perhaps a few sessions of spinal decompression, and viola! You feel better.
Problem is, the pain returns again… darn it!
The answer is because you didn’t do you corrective exercises and your muscles returned to their point of familiarity, which is a misaligned muscular pattern. What all that means is that you have to relearn how to move, sit, and work differently. You have to relearn how to live in alignment so that your muscle memory returns back to normal, and not to its impinged pattern.
Muscle Memory, Injuries and Corrective Movement Patterns
Muscle memory describes a form of memory associated with movement patterns, or motor tasks and is the base of corrective exercise therapy.
Muscle memory is essential to our well being and daily activities. Let’s say you woke up every morning, but your muscles could not remember how to roll out of bed or walk normally. So you stomp up and down the room like a toy soldier, or walk on your tippy toes like a toddler does, when first learning how to walk. Eventually, by the end of the day, you figure out how to walk normally. But then you fall asleep and wake up and the whole process starts over again. You may laugh at the image, but this is a simple example of how muscle memory, or movement patterns, are essential to our survival.
When an injury occurs, a type of muscle memory develops that, at first, is also essential for our survival – it guards the area that was injured. This incorrect muscle memory is referred to as muscle guarding or fear-avoidance.
For example, let’s say you injure your supraspinatus muscles in your shoulder girdle, so your trapezius (remember those big thick muscles along the base of the neck and across the upper back) start to take over every time you lift your arm. Why? Because the trapezius overworking temporarily relieves the pain in your supraspinatus. Time goes on, and your supraspinatus is healed, but nobody told the trapezius muscles to stop working. These are huge muscles and they just keep on plugging away, until your supraspinatus goes on permanent holiday.
The end result is an inhibited muscle patterns, or muscle guarding. The compensation becomes habitual and your movement patterns won’t be as fluid or strong as they used to be. Your range of motion will become more limited, your soft tissues will experience discomfort and your posture may even seem off.
So then you visit your chiropractor and adjust this area back to life – viola! The supraspinatus gets back to work.
And when you go back home and do your corrective exercises – double viola! The supraspinatus REMEMBERS what to do again and continues working, as opposed to falling asleep.
By continuing your corrective exercises, you are not only strengthening a muscle which has fallen “asleep,” but you are preventing future injuries and decreasing fear-avoidance.
Fear avoidance occurs when our body remembers the pain associated with our injury and tries to avoid feeling this pain again. Decreasing fear avoidance will help you recover quicker, increase your self reliance (you did this, yourself!) and boost your confidence.
Types of Corrective Exercises
Corrective exercises may include working with a foam roller to help create myofascial release or working with resistance bands to help stimulate muscle firing. You will receive a personal training session that may incorporate core stability exercises which will help re-engage and strengthen your primary lumbar stabilizers and torso stabilizers. Once your body is on a good track with your corrective exercise program, you will notice that certain guarding movement patterns that you adopted and forgot about over the months or years will completely disappear.
After your training session, you will receive simple stretches and exercises to do at home, such as a hip flexor stretch, which can relieve pain and pressure in the lumbar spine, or a neck and shoulder stretch to loosen up those overworked trapezius. Your corrective exercise program will include everything you need to get yourself back on track, whether you are a professional athlete or a weekend warrior.
We at North Atlanta Chiropractic honor and respect the human body. We know that given the proper tools and care, the body can improve and heal.
By seeking proper care for your body and committing to your corrective exercises, you will not only feel better, but experience improved strength and flexibility, enhanced performance in your athletic and daily activities, increased mobility, and reduced stress and an overall sense of well being. When the body functions with ease, you experience a greater sense of calm and a healthier nervous system.
Please remember that when you visit a chiropractor and receive a spinal adjustment or other type of therapeutic procedure, it’s crucial to maintain the body in alignment: if not, you’ll simply return to your regular style of moving, sitting, standing and working out and re-engage those incorrect movement patterns. Make sure that the chiropractor you choose has the staff and resources to give you a proper corrective exercise program.