Muscles are not decision-makers: Motor Control is top-down

Last week a client came in for an Initial Assessment. She’s a personal trainer and so wasn’t surprised when during posture analysis I noted the right hip was higher than the left, and the right ribcage tipped down from ribs 10-12. You can see this in the photo to the left.

These postural issues were one of the reasons she’d come in, along with lower back pain. This posture dysfunction usually means the internal abdominal oblique on the side with the high hip (the right side in this case) is stuck in a shorted position. And it was very stiff. If this was the end of the assessment we would have used a Tune Up Fitness Coregeous ball to self-massage the right internal oblique. And IF there were any results, they wouldn’t have lasted. Why not?

Full History is a crucial part of the assessment

The Initial Assessment has many parts. Further testing and a full history revealed another possibility. Scar tissue around a rib she’d broken in high school was adhering the ribs together. Why were the muscles on the right side so tight? The motor control center in the brain (the cerebellum) was USING them to try to break-up this scar tissue on the left. This scar tissue was keeping these ribs from moving and so impairing optimal breathing. Remember, the muscles aren’t making these decisions.

Posture doesn’t tell us everything we need to know

One more example from last week’s sessions.  A client came in with a left shoulder persistently rolled forward (protracted). The front of the shoulder, in the pectoralis minor area, was very tender. But testing showed that the issue was not the shoulder. The back muscles in this client’s upper back were stuck short, extending it. It was a short section of muscle that was stuck so the upper back wasn’t visibly extended. And the tender pectoralis minor was following orders from the motor control center, trying to correct his arched upper back with shoulder protraction (which wasn’t working). We released the upper back and the shoulder moved back into a much more functional centrated position. Posture exercises to retract the shoulder would NEVER have worked.

Posture Assessments and Core stability Testing in the Kitchener Waterloo Area

Releasing muscles that are painful rarely works as a long term therapeutic strategy. Releasing muscles according to postural analysis works more often. However, when the logical solutions fail, don’t keep foam-rolling the same spot. Do more analysis; take more history; test movement patterns and stability. Or, come get an assessment with me and I’ll do all that for you plus more. You can book online or contact me at for an appointment in the Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge areas.