The best new piece of information to enter my life has been, muscle synergy.
Synergy is defined as, “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects”. This is why a Reece’s Cup is better than eating chocolate and peanut butter separately. But it’s also why an attempt to move one muscle after your brain becomes damaged can end up causing multiple muscle groups to link together, creating ineffective movement patterns.
Oh, how I wish I would’ve known that YEARS ago. I’ve been blaming weak muscles and damaged nerves for not doing their job without first breaking the patterns that have developed since being diagnosed. Or, better yet, learning how to use these strange patterns to my advantage when exercising.
Regardless, now that I know better I do better.
Recently I bought a brace for my hand to keep my fingers straight. Usually I attach my hand to props when exercising which turns arm extension into a real a shitshow. But if I straighten my hand first, my arm more easily relaxes. If I sleep with the brace, I wake up with a straighter relaxed arm. If I exercise with it, my arm can bend and straighten with less effort.
I haven’t noticed the reverse however. If I brace up my elbow, my hand remains in a tight fist rather than relaxing. I have to manually straighten it with a weighted sandbag. When I try to research why this happens I get bogged down and confused by what I read. I know enough to understand the general anatomy and physiology but not enough to understand the specifics. My guess is that fingers performing fine motor movements, versus the elbow that only moves grossly, respond differently to spasticity?
Who knows and at this point who cares? I’m simply being curious while trying new things to move better. This is why a post like this one should merely inspire your own curiosity regarding what works for you and your limitations, not instruct you specifically about how to move. Leave that to the experts.
I will say that the following products (trigger finger brace, elbow brace, 10lb yoga sandbag, active hands and a PT bar) allow me to be as inquisitive as possible. Although the Active Hand is expensive, it does allow you to grip a bar and stretch a spastic arm. I’ve also used it to attach my shit arm to a pull-up bar to hang and stretch which feels awesome. You can also use it to attach your hand to an elliptical or rowing machine, treadmill, stationary bike, or free weights, when exercising or hold a beer can when relaxing. Just keep in mind that you’re attached, which can make equipment dangerous to use.
Please Note: Visiting a hand therapist for an evaluation and a custom splint is best. I have one who made me a great splint two years ago, but it’s old and worn out. I figured spending less than $25 on Amazon was quicker and cheaper than multiple co-pays for an evaluation and therapy sessions, so I went that route.