Link Muscles and Neuro with A Wango Tango
Is movement a struggle? Do you have pain in your knees and hips? Do you feel like your legs are not your own? The neuromuscular system communicates between your brain and muscles. It responds instantly to movement, balance, and joint position. If you think about it, we are all just standing on stilts with the strength of our muscles holding us up. But what happens when we unlearn to walk? Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and osteoarthritis cause imbalance and loss of movement. Neuromuscular exercises are like agility training in slow motion. These movements positively affect balance and improve normal function. To improve the neuromuscular system would be to move in funky ways like walking the balance beam, going speed skating, or learning to Tango!
The nerve network is like an upside-down tree with roots at the brain and the tiniest branches and leaves extending into the muscles and skin. Just like trees bring sunlight down to grow roots and water up to grow leaves, electrical signals travel the neuromuscular network to and from the brain and muscles. Good thing it works all on its own. Imagine if you had to control over 600 hundred muscles and chew gum all at the same time! Tree energies move by the wind pumping branches. Muscle and brain energies travel by electrical impulses. The best way to challenge this automatic system is to try to walk while chewing gum. Well, let’s start with something a little simpler.
If you have any of those diagnoses, it may feel like your body is not your own. Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis specifically damage these same neuromuscular networks. Osteoarthritic pain causes you to move off track. This off-track takes your body off of the strongest muscles and out of your neuromuscular network. All of this can make the legs feel weak. Some clients have described the feeling as if you were ice skating without ice skates. First, you are standing, and suddenly, you are looking up at others standing around you. Physical therapy through your physician is the best first defense for these diseases. Do it as often as you can. For neuromuscular health maintenance, you could consider these movements for improvement.
A good health therapy to start would be balance exercises as simple as standing on one foot and then the other. If standing is too much to begin the challenge, start seated and slightly lean to the right and left with your feet planted on the floor. Advance by placing one foot in front of the other like a pretend balance beam and repeating the movements. Whether sitting or standing, the movement and adjustment is the trigger for neuromuscular response. Finally, slow-motion agility movements would be more of a challenge if you can stand safely. Hold a chair for balance and reach the right leg back and forth beyond the left leg. Repeat on the other side. Move like a speed skater going around corners. This improves the neuromuscular response to the hips and knees.
It’s a bit more challenging than chewing gum and walking. But if you want to get the neuromuscular system to grow, you could always learn the Tango!
According to the Geriatric Physical Therapy website, “Thirty hours of adapted tango lessons improved balance, mobility, endurance, and dual-task ability in a participant with chronic stroke. The participant enjoyed the classes, was adherent, and wished to continue.” Walking the balance beam, going speed skating, or learning the Tango – any form of movement apart from normal movement will make normal movement easier.