Welcome back to the “Healthy Life” podcast. I was recently asked a question that I’ll address it today.”I feel like I do the same things day after day... and repeat the same exercises and nothing changes!” Boy! can I relate!
I understand the frustration that occurs and I also understand the underling thinking, the reason and hope that repetition is taught and preached. One of the thoughts that is put forward it that of “muscle memory” which is “the ability to repeat a specific muscular movement with improved efficiency and accuracy that is acquired through practice and repetition” ... nice idea...
Let’s take riding a bike, for example, but more than training our muscles we are training our brain... to balance and respond in a timely manner to the push on the pedals. Left, right, left and then right. I remember a rehab technician actually telling me to move my affected arm... to lift it. I tried to explain that I couldn’t feel my arm... had no ability to move it... and in reality forgot how. In fact when I looked at my arm I saw it but it was like a foreign object. It may have been attached but that was it... there was no function.
I remember being taken to rehab and my arm being placed on a “machine” ( like bike pedals with handles instead) that when rotated by the “good” arm, would involve movement in the affected arm. Because I had no feeling or grip my affected hand was strapped in place and wrapped to try and encourage movement in it while I attempted to move the handle with the “good” hand. The tech explained that they were trying to trigger movement in that affected side by trying to stimulate muscle memory.
Well it didn’t work and after attempting it daily for a month I finally refused the exercise.
There is a lot of discussion about “muscle memory” and neuroplasticity, (a term that deals with the brain's ability to adapt as a result of injury ) and how either of them can be used in rehabilitation. I was challenged in much the same way years ago and experienced years of frustration. As patients go I was a “good” one... I did what I was asked with little argument. When someone said jump, I would say ok... for how long, how high, and in which direction. I was the patient every doctor wants to have, yet when it came to results I saw that they were lacking greatly. I too began to question the legitimacy of rehab exercises that brought more frustration than results.
You have to give me credit because I invested 3 years in repeat performance before I thought about and challenged certain lacks in exercise results. While all this was going on I passed all the anniversary “dates of no return”. You know those dates when we were told we would never get anything back after... 6 weeks... 6 months... 1 year... or “put in your date” here!
When I finally decided to travel to China and begin what would be a 5 month rehab and treatment regime I had come to the end of my whits and bordered on physical exhaustion. It was pointed out to me in my first week of treatments in China that my stroke had wrecked havoc with my brains ability to communicate with other parts of my body. Wow! I had to go to a foreign country that spoke a different language to learn about communication!
I have since learned to speak to people and use the “washed out road” analogy. When we have a stroke it occurs in the brain and it’s like a super highway being deluged by a flood and washing it out... you must rebuild the road before it can be used...
Have you ever seen a road being built... the measuring, grading, building up, paving, marking, etcetera...
If you’ve ever traveled on a road under construction... the trip is not an easy one. if fact it’s down right uncomfortable especially if you’re driving on it in the middle of work. Uneven areas abound, some almost impassible. Well using that theme we are trying to drive when there are still ruts, washed out zones... holes... nails on the road. After our stroke the body can’t get messages from one part of the body to the other...
It’s no wonder we can’t communicate... we don’t even know how...
Hey I’ve got a joke for you... what do you call a person who speaks two languages (bilingual) three or more (multilingual) and only one... American
Anyway... it’s a lot like being in China as an American that speaks only English and my body now only understands and speaks Chinese... I can’t tell it what to do... I can yell all I want and it doesn’t understand!
We need to improve and rebuild the line of data communication between our brain and body parts. Sometimes not much is affected other times total destruction exists and a lot has to be rebuilt. If those lines exist, slow and steady repetition will accomplish much. But if they don’t then no amount of repetition in the world will help. One of the things I learned about our bodies is the ability it has to heal.
Unfortunately we often use too many drugs, inappropriate activities, surgeries that cut off, interrupt, slow, or even stop the healing process. This is why I advocate using a dry luffa early on in stroke rehab to remind the brain the connections are still there. You know I used a luffa for three years before I made it to China for treatment and saw more rapid results because my body was primed.
As a result the data lines were redeveloped much faster... even after three years! Then the repetitive exercises started to pay off and the results are exciting! The year following my treatment in China was awesome. I won’t tell others what to do but... metaphorically ... you need to walk before you run... and data lines must be repaired before you can force loads of data down them... a path must be cleared... a foot path established before it is widened and paved and used to haul big loads!
Well that’s all the time we have for today ... I’m so glad to talk about repetition and share thought and answers with you... thanks for joining me today and look forward to sharing with you again tomorrow, ...please feel free to leave me a message at stroke.global or on Facebook @stroke.global, I enjoy seeing them all.
It really is an honor and it’s been a pleasure sharing today and I hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast... we keep it brief so it’s easy to add to your day... we want to thank our sponsor TCM Restoration for helping us provide this venue. Feel free to share this podcast with others, offer your feedback and questions and follow us online on our website stroke.global or on our Facebook page. See you back here tomorrow!