Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Use what you've got to get what you need.

If you've had a stroke, your spinal cord still works fine. The spinal cord takes over some aspects of movement. The first step in this process of the spinal cord taking over is spasticity. The brain can't move you, so spasticity, generated in the spinal cord, takes over. And as much as we hate spasticity, things could be worse. Spasticity is better than nothing. "Nothing" in this case would be a completely flaccid affected ("bad") side. And being flaccid is worse than being spastic. Trust me on this.

But if we go a step beyond spasticity towards recovery there is an intermediate step. This intermediate step is known as synergy. The spinal cord basically allows for basic movements. The brain is not working, the spinal cord takes over, and the spinal cord allows very basic movements.

The synergies, although often disparaged by clinicians, are brilliant. In the upper extremity, synergy allows for the most important movement you can imagine: 
Feeding. It looks like this...


In the lower extremity the flexor synergy looks very much like a stepping pattern.

Clinicians have, for 40 or 50 years or so, said that synergies are bad. I disagree. Synergies can be used in a way that replicates good coordinated movement. Synergies give you the ability to at least attempt to replicate a normal movement. Enough attempts and the brain rewires and the synergies are discarded.

Watch this video. This stroke survivor (Brian Redd) is on the right track... use what you have to get more. 

(At 2:35 he provides a stellar description of the flexor and extensor synergies of the leg).

No comments:

Blog Archive