The feelings of stiffness, pain, stress and tension can be reduced quickly by consciously adjusting certain internal feedback loops.
We now know the brain can change according to neural plasticity.
The flow of information from the brain to nervous system to muscles and back can by systematically changed so good feelings return.
If the brain or body has gone haywire, the programmed flow of information can keep conditions in check, rather than soothing and restoring good feelings.
In the field of Integrative Medicine or Complimentary Alternative Medicine (CAM) there a number of Mindful Based Stress Reduction methods which help both brain and body restore itself.
Our unique approach is a form of self bio-feedback where you learn how to use a natural process in combination with using your conscious awareness and feeling your way to self-adjust the reset mechanism.
The reset mechanism works like a thermostat you can control or regain control back to comfortable levels primarily through the feedback loops described below.
Feedback Loop 1 - Sensory-Motor Cortex
The first loop is in your brain's sensory-motor cortex.
Say you consciously decide to do a movement.
Your brain sends a message or information down the nervous system to the various muscles so they can contract so you can move.
As you do a conscious movement, you can tune into the flow of information and feel your feelings or sense perceptions related to that particular movement.
In other words, the flow of information comes back from the muscles to your nervous system and brain.
For example, you can reach for a glass and decide to lift it.
Normally we do this on auto-pilot since it is a learned program and that program is housed in the lower part of the brain.
When you consciously feel your way through it, rather than being in the programmed part of the brain, you are now in the upper part of the brain's cortex.
If you were to reach differently or reach for a heavier or lighter glass, then your feelings about the movement can also feel a little different since your path is altered and the weight or width of the glass can change how you lift it and what that feels like to you.
Your feelings, levels of sensitivity, proprioceptive awareness (how you are positioned in space) or sense perceptions are part of tuning into the sensory flow of information as you lift the glass.
So when you learn a new move or you pay more conscious attention to a particular movement, you go into this feedback loop.
As you do a movement, you can feel your feelings or sense perceptions related to the entire act of that particular movement.
Your feelings, levels of sensitivity, proprioceptive awareness or sense perceptions are part of tuning into the sensory flow of information as you lift the glass.
So when we learn a new move, we go into this feedback loop.
Feedback Loop 2 - The Alpha-Gamma Loop
Here we’re drilling down a little deeper neurologically as this loop happens as the brain, nervous system, spinal cord, and muscles coordinate their actions.
The alpha-gamma loop is the communication or flow of information between your alpha motor neurons and gamma motor neurons.
Neurons are nerve cells which conduct impulses in loops.
The command center of the alpha loop is in the brain’s cortex.
The command center of the gamma loop is in the lower part of the brain, the brainstem.
So when you do a conscious movement, the motor cortex is being turned on and your alpha motor neurons go to work and contract the skeletal muscles to move your bag of bones around.
Your gamma motor neurons, which can also contract, though are not usually causing movement on its own, regulates tension in normal muscle activity.
So conscious movement happens in the motor cortex, though the gamma loop is activated in all movements.
In the muscles, there are cells which responds to a signal so we know or feel our position in space and this sensory information is part of our somatic nervous system.
The changing length or tension of these cells is tracked so the brain can fine tune to be more accurate or precise as you move.
The muscles also have a link to the spinal cord so we can move reflexively and not think about it like when we place our hand near a hot stove and move it away quickly.
Afterwards we can feel if there is any damage, freak out or laugh as the case may be.In other words, our reaction comes first to save us.
Getting Out of the Loop of Balance
In a similar manner, when we have a muscle cramp or spasm which can seem like it comes out of nowhere.
We react since this is a spinal cord level event and our muscles can then remain locked up or signals of pain may turn on.
When things get altered long enough, like if you live with chronic pain or you feel out of alignment and sense discomfort, then this loop can be out of balance.
This where it can be difficult to recover from re-injury.
You might go into protection mode and begin to splint yourself from doing a movement since you know the negative feelings which can arise.
If you continue along in this substituting hide-and-seek manner, then the pattern you're adapting can become a learned response or a way of movement thus becoming a program in the lower part of the brain.
So even though things can be out of balance, you can still walk, talk and chew gum to the best of your ability.
Restoring Balance to the Loops
The natural process to restoring balance happens through the entire act of pandiculation.
This is what healthy animals with a spine do to release stiffness and remind the muscles of their abilities.
For the human animal, who doesn't normally use this natural resetting process, getting back to balance in these loops is vital since the brain can change what it is has learned to program.
The program of creating more pain, stress, and tension can continus despite our best our efforts.
When you consciously and systematically go about it, you change the brain program and bring the muscles and movement system back online.
Then those comfortable feelings return as you become familiar with how to be in charge and restore the loops back to balance.
Watch our understanding of how this alpha-gamma loop works and how we can consciously apply a system of somatics exercises which uses the act of the process of pandiculation to reset the loop back into balance.
Resetting your own alpha-gamma loop/switch effectively affords you a natural benefit of being comfortably in control where you can maintain feeling comfort for the long run.
Ed Barrera is a Hanna Somatic Educator®, H.S.E., Holistic Health Advisor, H.H.A., Muscle Balance & Function Development Trainer, M.B.F.
Author of Move Like an Animal: Feel Comfortable, Move Well for Life in 3 Simple Steps. Amazon Bestseller in Pain Management & Aging.
Latest book: The 1 Thing to Do to Relieve Pain, Stiffness, Tension & Stress: When You've Tried Everything Else.
Ed lived with chronic pain and fibromyalgia in his 20's & 30's, so he appreciates the long road out and can help you shortcut your way back to feeling comfortable for life.
Ed has over 20 years of experience, helping people find natural pain relief with somatics exercises which are the complete reverse to most approaches since we use conscious gentle body movements that targets the brain’s motor cortex, resets the nervous system, and provides deeper states of relaxation which leads to a healthy, fully-functional body.
Essentially it's motor control exercises (MCE), mindful-based stress reduction (MBSR) and progressive relaxation all rolled into one which now the American College of Physicians (ACP) are saying is "the first thing to do relieve pain".