Sports Therapy

Health Practitioner

Oakford - Tiverton - Exmoor
Mid-Devon - & West Somerset

07794 578603

PROFESSIONAL SPORTS. The Value of Elite Structural Alignment.

Professional sport is all about taking the body to its limit of capability with magnificence. To see the flowing integrated movement of professionals such as tennis player Roger Federer is a joy to watch.

To succeed in sport we need to be able to move instinctively in complex combinations of activity in any direction with effortless flow.

We need to have such a level of structural and mind-body integration that we can create that “in the zone” feeling at will. Mental anticipation is maximised, unnecessary muscle tension is minimised. Speed and agility is uninhibited. Fatigue and wasted energy is minimised.

Female Triple JumperThe difference between “the best and the rest” can be tiny.

To get to this level of elite performance we need the ultimate level of structural integration and alignment if we are to avoid frequent injury. There is absolutely no room whatsoever for any structural misalignments. Misalignments carry with them muscle tensions that are part of the body’s natural compensatory mechanism. We may be completely unaware of these muscle tensions and yet they can rob us of vital flexibility and power.

Whilst it is true to say that some athletes and sports people compensate quite unconsciously and still produce outstanding performance, their superior strength and sheer determination or incredible natural physique allowing them to win regardless of strain patterns or muscular limitations, the question remains, what would they achieve without these compensations?

What do I mean by Elite Structural Alignment?

This is a state where the ligaments of all the body’s joints are all correctly aligned. It is a state where the muscles used in activity and postural holding are in total balance and harmony with each other so that the right sequence of muscle firing occurs at the right time uninhibited by tension. It is a state where the nervous system which coordinates all this activity is in harmony with all of this, a state of what we call neuro-muscular integration.

Any strain patterns in the body will disrupt this integration to varying degrees because the body’s instantaneous reflex reaction to strains is muscular tension – what I call ‘muscular scaffolding’ to strap up and compensate for the weakness. The whole body is reflexively coordinated into a compensatory pattern quite unconsciously to provide performance. The autonomic nervous system is so quick with these seamless responses that we may get very little feedback that anything has occurred.

How does joint alignment affect muscle integration?

Ligaments hold bones together as joints, providing fundamental position and stability whilst allowing movement that is required of the joint. Muscles are layered of top providing additional stability through background tone and providing functional strength and movement. Ligaments ‘talk’ to muscles through nervous system reflexes for coordinated support. If a ligament becomes strained, surrounding muscles are instantaneously recruited for help and support to minimise the consequences of the strain and possible damage to the joint. The ligaments rule. They demand from muscles the support they need for the security of the joint. This then becomes an adapted state seamlessly and continually going on. You may not get any feedback whatsoever that this is going on as it is well within the body’s capability as an adaptive organism. However, muscles that become involved in this extra postural compensatory activity can no longer give 100% to their normal intended purpose. In effect the elite integration has been compromised.

SailingFor example, a sacro-iliac strain in the lower back will demand muscular spasm in the lower back and gluteal area for extra support. Muscles in the mid thoracic area will then tighten to compensate for this change and some thoracic vertebrae may become fixed together and loose their natural movement between them. The neck muscles will be instructed to compensate by the nervous system and the alignment of the head may be intelligently tilted slightly to one side to complete the compensation. All of this may occur without any pain feedback whatsoever. You may notice nothing whatsoever until three months later when you go for a run and start to get pain in a knee which persists despite your attempts to “walk it off”.

My own research indicates that ligament strains are often not self correcting. Instead the body’s reflexes set up a complex compensatory mechanism as I have described. You can find ligament strains still present even years after their first occurrence despite the fact that you may have received many therapeutic interventions. The body strongly defends the compensatory mechanism to prevent further injury and doesn’t give it up easily.

Contrary to popular practice, I have not found that exercise, forceful adjustments or core muscle strengthening regimes correct these ligament sprains. These interventions can be very helpful and may appear to correct the problem but all my research indicates that very often the core strain remains hidden beneath a well compensated system. Nothing can beat getting the deep core strain out so that proper neuro-muscular integration can be re-established.

The symptoms of a well compensated deep core ligament strain can be;-

  1. Repetitive strains occurring in any joint.
  2. Muscular stiffness in joints.
  3. Injuries occurring in different joints one after another and having difficulty in remaining strain free.
  4. Unexplained tiredness or lack of fitness beyond that which you would expect of yourself.

My treatments involve a process of correcting joint strains through what is call neuro-muscular re-patterning. This not only repositions the joint to its natural alignment, but also resets the nervous system / muscle reflex pattern that is part of the compensatory mechanism. In effect the core strain is truly released to restore the postural alignment and integration that should be there. Compensatory muscle tension is released and re-establishment of true joint movement is achieved. Now we can re-establish the integration that facilitates such good performance.

We can take this re-patterning to an elite level far beyond that required for normal daily living. This involves finding out what physical or mental pressures threaten the stability of this neuro-muscular integration.

Girl playing tennisFor example, in tennis at match point how often do we see the pressure of the moment spoil the perfect serve and find us hitting the net just when it matters! The pressure of the moment creates a partial interference to the neuro-muscular integration that normally creates the well practiced ‘perfect serve’. The result is the missed serve and the struggle to win the match.

We have techniques that reduce this interference. We can change the body’s autonomic reflexes so that it becomes stronger and more resistant to this dis-integration. The result is that we can stay more often “in the zone” of elite structural and mental integration – the state which produces elite performance even under the extreme mental pressures of competitive sport.

This can help us produce the ‘perfect serve’ - just when we need it!
Whatever your sport you are involved in, your performance can be enhanced by our techniques.

For further information call us on 07794 578603.

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