Monday, December 22, 2008

Z Health and Biomechanical vs Neurological Approach

If you talk to any fitness professional, physical therapist, coach, etc you can divide them up into 2 camps by how they view everything

1) Biomechanical
2) Neurological

My incredible personal bias is that the neurologic approach (as taught in Z Health) is a better way of viewing things. I sincerely believe that the biomechanical approach will be surpassed in the next few years. If you think long and hard enough, you eventually come to the realization that something (the brain and nervous system) MAKES the muscle contract! No matter how you slice it, you have to account for the nervous system.

Truth be told, when I started out in the fitness area I was a die hard biomechanical fan. Hell, I did a Master of Mechanical Engineering focusing on biomechanics with my fun classes in the area of anatomy and physiology.

Over time though, I realized that the biomechanical approach was limited. For the full story, see this link HERE to my interview at the Fitcast.

Please note that I am NOT saying that the entire biomechanical approach is incorrect and that you can not get good results from it, but at some point the biomechanical paradigm runs into a ceiling since it is the nervous system that is really controlling everything. What makes a muscle contract? Hmmmm.

If you buy that the nervous system runs the show, then anything can be related to anything, since the nervous system connects all of it. Dr Cobb likes to say "All the body, all the time." Having said that, there are many patterns that show up again and again and generalizations can be made from them.

One question that comes up time and time again is how can working on an opposite joint help? If I bugger up my RIGHT ANKLE, how the heck does working on my LEFT WRIST help my ankle?

The reason to go to the opposite joint is two fold
1) Many times doing ANYTHING on a joint that has an "issue" is going to elicit pain. We know that pain has bad effects on overall performance and the nervous system (see this post HERE.) Ideally, we want to avoid pain. Why would I put you IN pain to get you OUT of pain?

2) The technical term is "interneural limb coupling".

From Kawashima et al "The present results indicate that the neural signal induced by the upper limb movements contributes not merely to enhance, but to shape the lower limb locomotive motor output. Such neural interaction between upper and lower limb motion could be an underlying neural mechanism of human bipedal locomotion."
Source Journal of Neurophysiology

It shows that via the nervous system, the upper and lower limbs are connected.

Without getting too far into pain physiology, active manipulation of the opposite joint seems to affect motor response via interlimb neuralcoupling to the OPPOSITE joint. Many times this results in a decrease in pain, perhaps via the Gate Theory of Pain (although I think newer research shows the Neuromatrix of Pain to be a more robust model).

Non painful mobility work can really be anything you want, but in order to facilitate learning, an ACTIVE mobility drill is best. I use the Z Health R/I Phase drills which are specific wrist movements that the athlete does themselves.

In order to believe that doing something to a different part of the body will affect another part of the body you have to either extend the biomechanical model via fascial trains or go with a nervous system centered model.

All of this is taught in the Z Health R Phase certification. If you have any questions about it, feel free to email me directly by clicking on my name below.

Contact Mike T. Nelson