Usually we think of our muscles as activators. When they fire off they create the movements that give our life meaning.

But every muscle is also a sense organ. Muscles have sensory nerve endings that initiate feedback loops to control muscle length and tension. In fact, a few muscles, such as the deep muscles of the upper neck that exert subtle control over head position, prioritize their job as sense organs. They have five or ten times the number of receptor nerve endings as compared to the average muscle.

Most often, information from your muscle sensory system doesn’t affect the conscious level of thought. But that’s not because this information isn’t important. Actually, the exact opposite is true. Because adaptively moving in space is the most important human function, the bulk of the tactical planning and feedback that controls movement has been automated, ensuring a quick and efficient response.

When you have pain, joint degeneration, or an injury, it’s not just the physical performance of your muscles and joints that has to bounce back. Your problem has also distorted the automated patterns of movement feedback that you rely on to move through life.

That’s why each of my treatment plans includes a component of movement and body awareness. You have to rebuild your inner smarts.

To truly get to the root cause of the problem, though, it’s not enough to reset your nervous system back to business as usual. You didn’t start off with a clean slate. You already had some poor internal programming that needs to be refreshed.

One dimension of poor internal programming is the way your brain gets used to habitual, thoughtless postural choices and repetitive overuse. These elements have to be addressed. But what truly distinguishes my therapeutic approach is the recognition of the additional dimensions of human movement.

The goal of most rehab programs is to restore the ability to perform specific movement tasks: in daily life (lift, bend, sit at a computer screen, etc.); or in athletics (run fast, jump high, shoot 3-pointers, smash forehand volleys, etc.)

But body movement also serves as a form of self-expression and communication. Through movement we express our particular brand of self-esteem, our personalized concept of body image, the style with which we connect with others, our emotional state, and much more. Oftentimes, making a shift in our internal movement programming requires making a shift in these deeply embedded elements which we hold as central to ourselves as human beings.

Your muscles, both as movement activators and as sensory receptors, are a profound and rewarding place to look in the quest to connect to the deepest core of your being.

My career (now 42 years and counting!) has been dedicated to helping you find your path forward: towards improved movement performance; and to forge better internal connections among the complex elements that make life so rewarding and such a unique expression of each human being.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.

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