The process of regaining normal movement after an injury (or while experiencing pain) can can be viewed along a continuum.
Our job is to help navigate this path with you.
First and foremost, we need to recognize that everyone possesses an extremely intelligent nervous system that is hard-wired to protect us at all costs. There are both conscious cognitive and deeper reflexive habitual components always at work in the body and mind in movement. In rehab and performance training, If we successfully progress movement challenges in terms of load and complexity — while maintaining safety — we can move successfully along the continuum.
It’s a great question. The answer is that there’s a deep part of your nervous system that learned to prioritize not letting you fall on your butt, no matter what. It only cares about short-term safety.
In this runner’s case, doing a squat using her gluteal muscles instead of predominately her quads is a new pattern. It doesn’t feel stable yet.
And her very smart nervous system knows that if she goes into her old pattern of tucking her pelvis and uses her quads, she won’t fall. She won’t fall, because she has practiced this movement pattern for decades.
But, now that you know better — it’s time to explore a new option. It’s time to learn how to move in a different way. This is why “strengthening muscles” is only a part of the equation. The primary goal in rehab is NERVOUS SYSTEM LEARNING.
And you have to give that possibility a fighting chance by making the movement so simple, so clean, so “easy“, that the deep levels of your nervous system have confidence in your competence to stay upright, and not fall on your butt.
So, remember: it’s all about learning. The specific movements or exercises are not the most important piece. How they are done and what you learn from them is key. Our goal is to progress in a way that will allow new movement patterns to become automatically, habitually applied to everything you do in your life.