January 26, 2015

Muscle Memory Finally Kicked In

I am stunned.  Eleven years after a stroke my muscle memory still works.  For months I have been doing abdominal exercises to prevent back spasms (click here).  However, arching my back while leaning against the kitchen counter persisted so I used a memory aid to stop this bad habit.  I leaned on my arm after placing my hand on a piece of Dycem.  This created a space between my stomach and the sink.  A few weeks ago I became aware of my body telling me the twisted way I was standing at the sink did not feel good. I immediately stood up tall and straight.  I do not know how long I have been doing this because I no longer have to tell my back and stomach muscles what to do. 

Athletes call the ability to quickly execute a practiced movement muscle memory.  Muscles do not remember - the brain remembers.  A part of the brain called the cerebellum stores motor memories so it can automatically tell muscles what to do.  Motor memory kicked in during the first few years after my stroke, but I did not know this could still happen to me.  Relearning movement is mentally exhausting because stroke survivors have to tell their body to do EVERY LITTLE movement.
Moving without thinking about it is a blessing.

Bottom Line: My back and my brain are happy about this unexpected development.


  1. I hope you're collecting these blogposts into a book. Every time I see a stroke patient, I hear some family member say something like 'the doctor said no improvement would be possible after' ... and then some docs are saying a year, others two years, a few are saying five years. And patients and families are taking those predictions as The Truth.

    You have a unique perspective with skills on both sides of the therapist/patient interaction. I am SO glad you're sharing your new knowledge with us!

  2. I'm so happy to hear about your progress!! Congratulations!

  3. Great to hear that as I have experienced some of that muscle memory and hope for more.

  4. That is really cool. I wonder what your body will learn next? Very impressive.