January 26, 2015

Muscle Memory Finally Kicked In

I am stunned.  Eleven years after a stroke my muscle memory still works.  I have been doing abdominal exercises to prevent back spasms.  But I still arched my back by leaning against the kitchen counter to maintain my balance while reaching.  To stop this bad habit I had to used a memory aid.  1st I leaned my sound hand on a piece of Dycem. Then I put my hemiplegic hand on the counter for support.  This creates a space between my stomach and the sink.  After lots of repetition I stand up straight without having to think about it. 

Athletes call the ability to execute a practiced movement muscle memory.  But 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.  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.

6 comments:

  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!

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

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

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

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