Alright, let’s rinse the bad taste of talking about posture out of our mouths and talk about the next, equally important element.
Micro-failures occur as a result of motor control dysfunction (faulty movement patterns).
To give you a visual understanding, here’s another graph!
In this graph, you will see the same, submaximal loading, repeated over time. The longer these loads are repeated, the closer to failure the tissue becomes.
Before I dive into this one, I want to give you a very common example I give all of my patients:
If you have a scab, and you just sit there all day picking it, what’s going to happen?
The answer is, it’s going to swell, bleed, probably get infected, be constantly irritated, painful, and eventually every little thing that comes anywhere close to that scab is going to cause you pain. A fly could land on your skin 10 inches away, and if you’ve been picking at it enough, you’re going to feel it and it’s going to feel like you’ve been stabbed.
Hyperbole aside, I think you get my point.
Now imagine another scenario for me…
Imagine a room full of employees whose only job is to move blocks of ice from one side of the room to the other. The only catch is that all the blocks of ice MUST be on the other side of the room at the end of the day, no matter what.
After an hour or so, everyone quits except one worker, let’s call her “your low back muscles” (see what I did there?)
Now at the end of the day, you can imagine “she’s whooped” (as my grandma would say). By the end of the week, she’s probably hurting.
And you can send “your low back muscles” to the gym, making her nice and strong. You can send her to the world’s best acupuncturist, spine adjustor, and manual therapist, making sure she’s getting all of the best treatments there are to offer.
But what you will never do is change one simple fact – she’s over-worked. Rather, her body has reached its capacity for work. Mrs. “lower back muscles” is, dare I say, failing.
Manual techniques feel nice, but at the end of the day the one thing she needs is some friggin’ rest! But how does she get that without completely quitting?
We get the other employees to start doing their job!
This is the essence of a motor control dysfunction.
It’s a little outside the scope of this article to get into the nitty gritty of motor control deficits, but I would highly recommend you educate yourself on this subject in any of our online workshops that discuss them as they relate to specific parts of the body, but suffices to say that
your body is designed to sequence the activation of various muscles to accelerate/decelerate movement at very specific times. If anything is off in this sequence, we end up paying for it in the long run.
We would label these lapses in movement sequencing as “dysfunctional.”
Dysfunction of your body’s motor control system is what lands us in pain, after repeated execution of poor movement form leads to repeated microfailures.
Microfailures, for the purposes of this article, refer to tiny tears of the tissue (muscle).
Remember the example with the iceblocks – that employee is perfectly capable of moving the blocks of ice, and when necessary, she can move more at a faster rate. The loads placed on the body as a result of lifting and carrying the ice are “submaximal” – meaning she does not have to expend all of her strength and energy to lift them.
But she cannot keep this up for forever.
When your body is repeating the same movement with poor form over and over again, the tissues that are still working eventually become overworked.
Poor form (aka motor control dysfunction), means certain muscles are no longer contributing to the movement, leaving other muscles all alone to carry a heavier burden (pun intended).
Eventually, they reach a point of failure, where the tissue will tear and become damaged.
Just like picking a scab, if you continue to load this tissue, it will continue to tear and remain damaged.
Only by giving it the help it needs, will you allow this tissue the rest and recover.
In the case of the person who is flexion intolerant, maybe he is rounding his back to lift objects, initiating a sitting motion by rounding his low back, rounding his back to reach down and pick something up from the counter, to read something on his desk, to sit into his car.
So many simple movements in our days, if not executed correctly, can add up on our bodies until the injured area is no better than a scab that has been mercilessly picked all day long.
In the example of Mrs “low back muscles” moving the blocks of ice, we can do 2 things for her. 1) we can get the rest of the employees to start doing their jobs, giving her assistance and a much needed break, and 2) once she is rested and no longer in pain, we can train her to have improved muscular endurance so that she can tolerate more.
Armed with her co-workers’ assistance and improved endurance, Mrs “low back muscles” is going to be incredibly resilient.
In other words, if you move with proper motor control and improve your muscular endurance, you will be much less likely to injure yourself.
This one was a bit shorter than part 1, but I realize it’s much more dense. In part 3, we’re going to connect some dots for you so the content is a bit easier to understand…
- McGill, Stuart. Introduction to the Issues and Scientific Approach Unique to This Book. In: McGill, Stuart. Low Back Disorders: Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. Backfitpro; 2016.