Neuroscience: After 15 years of practice I am starting to understand it. Maybe.
I have always been interested in the use of electrical stimulation when treating patients. I have found that it
works and it works well. Usually, patients feel that it is a nice massage but do not realize there is a purpose behind the craziness. I use muscle stimulation for both muscles that have been inhibited and facilitated. I find that it is a helpful modality to my treatments.
The most common question I get from students is, “What exactly are you doing with the stim?” My answer use to be when the muscle is in spasm I am trying to calm it down and fatigue the muscle so it relaxes. This answer did not always work well because the tone would go down but the function would also improve. Which does not fit the fatigue theory. When the muscle is inhibited, stim can bring it back to life. I would explain that I am improving and waking the muscle up like cardiac paddles.
The next question is, “Why do you use it for both extremes, inhibited and facilitated?” The simple answer is it works and then ask them to research why. After they would usually come up empty-handed, I would go on with my hypothesis. “It doesn’t matter what the problem is, the electrical stim will help bring you back to normal.” I had nothing to back that nor did have anything to say it was wrong. All I know is that it works.
The best answer came when reading The Brain Way of Healing by Norman Doidge. A scientist named Yuri described the effect that stimulation has on the interneuron. The interneuron is the fine-tuning mechanism of the nervous system. They clarify the signals by increasing or decreasing the intensity to improve the overall output. The example he has of interneurons in the retina and pupil in the eye. The retina has only so much capability to accept the light, if it is too much it would just cause a lot of “noise” and there would be no ability to distinguish fine detail. The pupil then acts as an interneuron to regulate the amount of light that hits the retina at any given time.
So my new hypothesis is I am affecting the interneuron with intense stimulation allowing it to reset. Allowing homeostasis. I would encourage you to work on your own hypothesis and see if you develop something with better clarity!
About the author,
Rajesh is a Physical Therapist, who is passionate about health and wellness. He is interested in all aspects of general well being including fitness, nutrition and mindfulness. He continues to learn and grow from the profession he loves.
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