Our bodies are complex, like working machines. But machines break down and require maintenance. When a part wears out, it can affect the entire machine. Our bodies are no different. This is why we monitor and take care of our bodies.
When you suffer an injury, undergo surgery, or endure chronic pain it’s common to lose strength and mobility. You may even experience a decline in your motor control, which can impact your balance and stability. This can sometimes even affect your proprioception, which is your body’s ability to sense movement and your body’s location in space. Neuromuscular re-education is used to retrain your muscles to be able to do movements they once did without pain.
Neuromuscular re-education is a technique used by physical therapists to restore normal movement patterns to the affected area. Various techniques and exercises are used to help retrain your body, reduce pain, and increase mobility.
Before going deeper, it is important to first understand how the body operates. Everything our body does is controlled and monitored by our brain. It will send signals through the nerves to tell your muscles what movement is needed. This helps you with actions like walking, talking, and other daily activities.
But, these pathways are not indestructible. When nerves or muscles experience trauma such as an injury, these pathways and movement patterns become affected. Neuromuscular re-education helps retrain the connection between the nerves and brain to effectively communicate again.
Physical therapists will help retrain your neuromuscular system with a variety of exercises. Manual therapy techniques, activities for balance and control, and other exercises will all help you to redevelop control. Some of the techniques include:
Muscle activation techniques help to retrain and isolate the muscles that you are having difficulty engaging. It’s where you learn to perform an isolated contraction of a muscle. Usually short, “wake up” exercises for your muscles to increase blood flow. For example squeezing your glutes together to help improve your ability to activate your glutes.
Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) uses a device to send electrical impulses to activate the nerves and improve muscle activation. The electrical shock targets your nerves to help your muscles contract, increasing strength and range of motion.
The goal of postural control is to improve trunk stability and balance across all planes of motion. The more control in your back and abdomen, the more stable your base is.
Balance exercises in physical therapy are used at any age to help maintain your balance. These exercises are also important for reducing injury. Doing these exercises after an injury can retrain the muscles to contract together, to better stabilize the movement.
These can be done with both single and double limb positions and be performed on various surfaces. Therapists will choose between dynamic balance exercises and stationary position exercises.
The main benefit of neuromuscular re-education is to restore the connection between the brain and muscles. It can be used with both injured and non-injured muscle groups. This can be beneficial if you are suffering from a variety of problems including postural dysfunction, acute or chronic pain, injury, or balance and instability issues. It's important to remember that the ultimate goal of this therapy is to bring about an improved quality of life, without having to endure pain or several surgeries.