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Neuromuscular reeducation is a general term that refers to techniques that attempt to retrain the neuromuscular system to function properly. The basis of this idea is that the formation of certain patterns of communication between muscles and nerves allow people to perform simple everyday acts such as climbing stairs. These normal patterns of movement can be disrupted by injuries or may be impaired in people with certain medical conditions. The general aim is either to re-establish normal patterns of movement in injured people or to create normal patterns of movement in disabled people, by practicing a variety of exercises.
People with specific injuries or challenges often seek out these techniques. This may include people who have experienced fractures or muscle tears or people with conditions like arthritis or cerebral palsy. Healthy people who want to improve their overall balance, strength, or flexibility, such as professional dancers or athletes, may also seek out certain forms of these therapies.
At its most basic, neuromuscular reeducation is very similar to physical therapy and may involve many of the same techniques to promote healing. This can include one-legged standing exercises to improve balance, strengthening exercises that target a specific area of the body, or stretching routines to increase both flexibility and range of motion in an injured limb. Therapeutic massage may also be a part of these therapies.
Some practitioners believe that an important part of injury healing is the removal of fibrous adhesions, which are thought to arise within injured areas of muscles or connective tissue and involve the overgrowth of fibrous tissue over the site of injury. These areas are the body’s way of protecting the tissue from further injury, but they are thought to result in impaired range of motion, decreased flexibility, and eventually the weakening of nearby muscle. A popular form of neuromuscular reeducation that focuses on the release of these fibrous adhesions is Rolfing.
These therapies in general tend to place greater importance on body awareness than many standard physical therapies. Some forms are so strongly based on a sense of body awareness and strengthening of the mind-body connection that they may be considered alternative medicine techniques. An example of such a therapy is the Feldenkrais Method, which claims that daily movements can become easier and require less effort if a person can reconnect and become comfortable with his or her body.
The Feldenkrais Method believes that most aspects of movement and posture are based on a person’s self-perception; therefore, it is essential to be aware of and open to changing self-perception in order to change the body. This method may use relaxation, massage, and touch therapy in addition to movement exercises to achieve this mind-body connection. A return to natural movement through body awareness is thought to be helpful for injuries or for people who want to improve certain aspects of their overall fitness.