My understanding of the SI joint, and the evolution of my recovery, has come in stages.
Today, I want to tell you about a concept that was an absolute game-changer for me.
When it comes to healing from SI joint dysfunction — or any injury, really — it isn’t just about making your muscles stronger. That’s a huge part of it, of course, but muscle strength isn’t necessarily the only way to think about it.
You want your muscles to be working together efficiently. You want neuromuscular control.
Healthy movement isn’t just about how strong one particular muscle is, relative to all the other muscles around it. I don’t know about you, but this is sort of how I used to think about fitness, back when I was younger! I honestly just thought in terms of the number of reps, and the number of calories burned on the display at the gym.
Recovering from this SI joint dysfunction required me to learn to see the whole body differently. Your muscles work as a system — it’s about how well they coordinate movement, and work in connection with each other.
Every muscle in the body has a role to play, when we go to perform a movement. The prime movers are like the “main characters” in a play. They have the primary responsibility of moving the arm/leg/joint in question.
The prime movers are also supported by another category of muscles called synergists. Synergists are like the supporting cast in the play. Synergists help to stabilize a joint, while the prime movers take the lead and create the movement.
Then, we have antagonists. During a movement, the antagonists oppose the actions of the prime mover, which you may not ordinarily think about as a good thing. However, being able to resist a movement is actually very important in giving us overall stability. We don’t want to be flopping all over when we go to move- we want our movements to be precise.
When all of these muscle systems are functioning together optimally, this is what we refer to as neuromuscular control.
We want to have balance. We want our body to be able to respond to the environment around us, without our having to consciously pay attention to every little thing as we move.
Proprioception – where is our body in space?
Our sense of proprioception plays a huge role in this as well – that is, the ability of our nervous system to sense where we are in space.
We have special nerve endings called proprioceptors which assist in this sense. That’s why, when we take a step and our foot hits uneven ground, our brain and nervous system know to respond, and we don’t fall over!
Training for neuromuscular control
Sometimes, after an injury – or in some cases, if you’re genetically hypermobile– your sense of proprioception and neuromuscular control can become inhibited.
Research hasn’t yet shown us exactly why this happens, but it seems to be a result of trauma to the body.
The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to retrain these stabilization systems, and optimize your movement patterns!
Learning to stabilize my SI joints was definitely a process. I started with a mindset of “I need to build strength,” and then, the more I learned over time, the more I learned how much nervous system coordination was actually a huge part of it, too.
At one point along my recovery, my SI joints had definitely become more stable… but I always felt I had to move very cautiously, as though I was still made of glass, or else I was afraid I would go out of alignment again.
Once I discovered these nervous system-stabilization techniques, it was an absolute game-changer.
One example: the foot core exercises I first learned about from one of my hypermobility specialists.
I’d had no idea these stabilization mechanisms were underdeveloped, but for after 5 years of SI joint dysfunction, my walking became much more fluid and automatic again.
I was able to stop paying so much attention to my environment with every step I took, and could actually begin to forget the fear of constantly going out of alignment. And once you’re stable enough to begin moving past this fear, a whole world opens up for you!!!
My experiences have shown me how the right recovery program will help you to develop muscle strength and optimize your neuromuscular control. Once you start to get both of these components going, that’s when things really start to change.
There are so many cool things I’m excited to share with you guys!
To learn more about my recovery and how my strategies can work for you, check out my coaching program! Click here for more info.
An update for 2023: I’m also creating an online course. My dream is to be able to give you guys all of the information that helped me, together in one place. I have such great conversations with my coaching clients, and am so inspired by the questions you guys ask me – this will be a place where you can log in and see your recovery roadmap, and have a template of all the things we discuss.
I’m so excited for everything that’s coming- stay tuned!
- Hip flexors: Beth O’Hara/Wikipedia
- Glute Muscles: Beth O’Hara/Wikipedia
- Nervous System: Connexions
2 thoughts on “Taking it to the next level: Neuromuscular Control”
Thank you very much for sharing your experience and your recommendations to heal us. I feel completely overwhelmed by this injury and your blog is a ray of light among so much darkness and suffering.
I am so glad my blog could play this role in your journey! Thank you so much for letting me know.
Best wishes to you as you move forward!