Mind to activate your muscles….Is it possible to get stronger and rehabilitate your muscles simply by using your mind!
This concept may seem a little odd to some of you, whereas others may love the thought of never having to step in to the gym to get fit.
We should never underestimate how much we can improve though, just by using the power of our mind to focus on a chosen activity. A lot of athletes use visualisation techniques in many ways to improve performance. Visualising coming 1st in a race or using techniques to more powerfully use their muscles to give them that ‘little extra’. You too can learn to use this skill. This can be especially helpful for those who have been injured, have limited physical mobility or are fearful of movement due to pain. By using simple visualisation techniques, focusing on visualising a muscle contracting, you can actively encourage that action. It may seem a difficult concept to get your head around, but it does work, so give it a try.
In clinic, a few years ago, a group of our osteopaths tested this concept using ultrasound imaging to monitor results. Our experiment focused on core muscle contraction. The core muscles are key to back support and strength and act as a girdle for your back. A lot of our back pain clients suffer due to lack of core muscle strength, but often are either in too much pain or too fearful initially to start using the muscle in more dynamic exercises like pilates. Using visualisation you can still activate these muscles to contract, without actively moving. This can be a huge benefit in the early stages of recovery.
We often underestimate the power of the mind in helping to heal ourselves physically and mentally. Used in the correct way, it can greatly speed up our recovery rates, help to get us stronger and fitter and increase our overall wellbeing.
At BOP we often combine our therapies, using the skillsets of our team, to achieve optimum results for body and mind. Negative emotions and feedback about health, wellbeing and exercise can dramatically alter some patients’ ability to make progress. Addressing overall health is key and the mind is the tool to potentially help or hinder this pathway.
To learn more about visualisation techniques, please look at the following articles.
- BASES (The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences) guide to mental imagery(www.bases.org.uk)
- Paper that shows motor imagery may reduce loss of strength(www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Paper on motor imagery mechanisms(journal.frontiersin.org)
- Paper saying athletes can gain strength and benefit from motor imagery training(www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)