Do you have a Hardware or a Software problem?

Do you have a Hardware or a Software problem

This may sound like a strange question. Let’s break it down to find out what this means when it comes to our body.

For the purposes of this blog we are defining hardware as the muscles, nerves, joints, ligaments, fascia, bones and organs. These are the structure of the body.

Software on the other hand is the program or algorithm that the brain uses to control the hardware. This analogy is similar to a computer. The hard drive and the monitor are hardware and the software is controlling them. If there is a hardware problem, you replace or fix it. But what do you do if there is a software problem? You have to reinstall or create a new program.

When it comes to the body the hardware problem will be restrictions or weakness in muscles, restrictions in fascia/ligaments, locked up joints, nerve impingements, inflammation or something more serous like a fracture, disc injury or infection.

It gets more tricky when it comes to software in the body. Another word for software is Motor Control. This is how the brain controls movement. Basically every movement we do has been trained and learned. From rolling over and walking as a baby to driving a car, running, playing an instrument and every conscious movement we do.

When it comes to an injury or stiffness in the body we have to determine if the problem you have is a hardware problem or a software problem.

Here’s an example:

You have neck stiffness and assume that your muscles are stiff and tight from hours at the desk at work. When I look at you I see that in a standing position you can't rotate your head fully to the side. When I have you lay on the table and then have you move rotate your head, suddenly you have full range of motion. Whoa!! What changed? If this was a hardware issue, ie: the muscle/fascia was tight or the joint locked up, then the range of motion would still be limited and you wouldn’t be able to rotate your head.

What has happened here is a motor control issue, or a software bug. It’s the brain that is stopping you rotating your head when you are standing or sitting.

So how do you change the software?

There is evidence in motor control and neuroscience that motor patterns can’t be changed. We have to create a new pattern. So the idea here is that we need to build the movement pattern from the ground up. Starting with movement on the ground. We could get you lying on your back rotating your head from side to side with an exercise band pulled tightly across your chest. The band pulling engages core muscles and allows the neck muscle to let go and move. We can then gradually move this position to one of knelling and then gradually up to standing. In theory, by the time you get up to standing your neck movement pattern should have changed and you will now be able to rotate your neck/head without restriction.

With all movements it takes time to learn them. If you have been doing a movement incorrectly for years then it will be very hard to change this. You now need to go in and re make that pattern from the ground up. Remember practice can make perfect but it also makes permanent, so a word of warning here, be careful what movement patterns you perform as you are training your motor control system. This also includes posture. If you sit in the same position everyday you are training your motor control system to be locked into that posture.

If all of this fails, then you can just try turning yourself off and on again and see if that helps...

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