At Premier, we see a fair amount of clients after catastrophic knee events. Whether it is an ACL tear, MCL strain, dislocation, or total knee replacement, the body responds in a very simlar way.
When most people think about these types of events and what happens to the body afterwards, they often describe physiological symptoms like inflammation, weakness, stiffness, and pain.
But what is it that triggers these events?
It's the nervous system.
As soon as the nervous system senses that something is "not right" with the knee, it responds by putting the knee in lockdown mode.
In lockdown mode, the nervous system shuts down neurological communication to the muscles of the quad (even more specifically the vastus medialis and vastus lasteralis). It refuses to use these muscles, because it fears using the muscles will put too much stress on the knee.
And without proper use of the quads, the knee feels extremely stiff and the leg can feel weak.
This is a beneficial response for the body, at first. It ensures that you will not continue to participate in activities that can put the integrity of the knee at risk.
But what about when it's safe to start using the knee again? Does the brain automatically turn the neurological communication back on to these muscles?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. And it's one of the major challenges of recovering from a catastrophic knee event.
Even when it's safe to start using the knee, the brain has latched on to the idea that the brain needs to be protected. It continues to lockdown the quadriceps muscle, which actually delays your recovery and puts you at a higher risk for re-injury.
In order to addreses this problem at Premier, we combine direct current electrical stimulation of the quadriceps with active range of motion exerecises. By doing so, we re-train the nervous system to relax the quadriceps, which promotes a more efficient recovery and quickly decreases symptoms like pain, inflammation, and stiffness.
If you, a friend, or family member are dealing with the after effects of a catastrophic knee event (whether it's been 1 day or 1000 days), make sure you ask your therapy team what they're doing to address this problem - it is the number one reason recovery from these events doesn't always go as well as planned.
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About the Author
Evan Lewis is a nationwide leader in Neuro Therapy and founded the Baltimore area's only specialist Neuro Therapy facility.
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Local to the Towson, Lutherville-Timonium, Cockeysville, or
Hunt Valley area?
Friends & Family receive a FREE Discovery Session at Premier!