In Pursuit of the Great White Whale: Getting Rapid and Acute Increases in Joint Motion and Control to “Hold"

I spent the better part of a decade trying to create permanent changes in joint motion and control (muscular participation/strength). In other words, I was trying to find or learn a way to make the acute changes in joint motion and strength that I observed “hold”. Here’s an example: a client is limited in hip internal rotation and is unable to pass a manual muscle test that applies a force into hip extension and adduction. I do something (massage or exercise) to increase both the motion of the joint and the strength of the muscles. If all goes according to plan, I then observe an increase in hip internal rotation and the client is able to pass the manual muscle test as indicated by their ability to resist the force into hip extension and adduction. I thought (and was told) that if I did my job correctly, these changes should last, that the changes should be permanent. When the changes did not “hold”, I kept attending classes and seeking remedies that promised to give me the tools and procedures to make these changes permanent. Perhaps you can identify with this scenario.

Well, there are a few pesky questions at the center of this pursuit of making permanent changes: 1) How do we know that the normal, healthy state of the human body is one of permanent, symmetrical motion and consistent positional strength? In other words, is “holding” the healthy state of the musculoskeletal system? 2) Is permanent symmetrical motion and consistent positional strength even possible? For over a decade, a few of my colleagues and I have scoured the literature and could find no support for these ideas. Not one research paper, book, or chapter in a book presented scientifically significant data. While these ideas seem compelling, they are not supported by scientific evidence. . Several books, methods, systems of training, and therapeutic intervention are based on the basic premise that when healthy, the human body is always symmetrical and able to pass manual muscle tests in specific positions, but we could not find evidence to support it. We could only find authors who made claims without offering more than anecdotal evidence.

However, we did find overwhelming scientifically valid evidence that the human musculoskeletal system is dynamic and has an array of strategic mechanisms to acutely and chronically increase and decrease joint motion. There is also overwhelming scientifically valid evidence that the human musculoskeletal system has an array of strategic mechanisms to acutely and chronically increase and decrease the force that the muscle generate to control motion. Many of the force applications needed to stimulate these acute and chronic changes are readily available in a gym, pilates studio, yoga class, or calisthenics routine. If you are interested in reviewing this evidence and the novel application of the research, please join me and my colleagues at Myotopia and the Muscle System Consortia as we lay it out in Facebook posts, webinars, and workshops. I also invite you to research this on your own. This information is not a secret, nor is it hard to find. Please do not be bullied into ignoring the evidence. After all, what is there to fear? Having a better understanding of how the human musculoskeletal system works can only improve your skill-set and your ability to help you clients achieve their goals.

Should you decide to explore these exciting topics and derived strategies with us, there will be no contracts to sign nor will we constrain how you choose to use or implement your knowledge. You are a professional. Professionals gather information from diverse sources, continue to learn, and improve their outcomes. We are committed to helping you explore and improve your understanding of the human musculoskeletal system and the affects of the forces that we apply to it. Whatever your job title or skill-set, we want to share objective, rational, and empirical evidence to help you provide the best services to your clients.