study your hands & feet for a briliant 'view' of Ligaments & Tendons
Recently, I was asked to write for the International Nia Headquarters’ February 2012 Newsletter! The topic, “Ligaments & Tendons”! I am posting my blog below, but if you want to know more about the topic, you can visit the Nia website and hear MORE about Ligaments & Tendons from Nia Founder, Debbie Rosas, Debbie Priest, fellow Nia Black Belt Teacher and Stepahney Robinson, Nia Trainer & teacher, link to the blog/newsletter here: http://www.nianow.com/node/60365.
Before we get to the blog, I offer my props to my dear friend, Amanda Miller-Marrone, fellow blogger & Nia devotee who inspired me with her blog…first to even begin writing…and then the creative action of tagging portions of blog posts with what’s “on the ipod”. Amanda & I share a deep love & appreciation of music…it so often is the soundtrack to our lives. I often quote music lyrics in usual conversation! (a lil’ crazy, I know…). So, inspired by my innovative, blogging buddy, I, too, communicate and inspire with song titles/lyrics Check out Amanda’s Blog, “Confessions of an Over-Eating Personal Chef Who just had a Baby!“ : http://www.blogger.com/profile/00089178308984881225 . And now onward…..to Ligaments & Tendons!!! oh boy!
(on the iPod: We Are All Connected by Magic Sound Fabric on NiaSounds’ R1 album)
If we had x-ray vision to see underneath our skin, we might first imagine “seeing” the musculo-skeletal system…our bones (our structure) and our muscles (our shape) without considering the powerful, pliable elements of dense connective tissue that holds it all together…yes, I’m talking about Ligaments and Tendons! But, without these amazing, functional elements, we would just be a pile of 206 bones and 700-ish muscles (as well as organs) accumulated on the floor!
When it comes to “connections”, ligaments and tendons, made mostly of collagen, form a “love-quadrangle”, so to speak! They ‘meet up’ with their fellow bones and muscles, often coming together to liaison at a joint! Collectively, ligaments & tendons form a ’stability pact‘ (Kieser), providing flexible-stability, bone-to-bone and muscle-to-bone ensuring the integrity of the joints and that movements are fluid and effective.
Ligaments, made up of dense bundles of parallel collagenous fibers, provide a flexible-stable connection between bones and other bones at joints (the place where two bones meet). Visualized as fingers that connect bone to bone, their function is to balance movement with stability and to strengthen and stabilize the joint in a passive way. Unlike muscles, they cannot actively contract, and for the most part, do not stretch. They receive tension by certain positions of the joint and slackened by others.
While ligaments are not stretchable, they are “smart”! They contain sensory nerve cells capable of responding to speed, movement, and joint position, as well as to pain. Their sensory cells constantly transmit such information to the brain, which, in turn, signals the muscles via motor neurons, aiding the body in avoiding damage or undue stress to ligaments through corrective action. When these intelligent signals are ignored, trauma may result in spraining or rupture of ligaments.
Tendons keep the musculoskeletal system stable and allow it to fuction effectively as they transmit force from muscle to bone. Tendons are a tough band of fibrous connecitve tissue capable of withstanding great load. These fibrous bundles are covered by a tendon sheath, which increases the stability of tendons and their resistance to tearing. Tendons and muscles work harmoniously to efficiently move bones…’maximum effect with least effort‘….dynamic ease….The Body’s Way.
(On the iPod: Before It Breaks, by Brandi Carlile on the album, Give Up the Ghost)
Ligaments and muscles are a tandem team: our ligaments secure and our muscles move and stablize joints. In reality, most of us don’t give ligaments a second thought until we injure one. For example, if we stumble, our muscle reflexes should provide protection. If they don’t, the associated ligament has to withstand the entire load on its own. This can overstretch the ligament and tear it. Tendons and ligaments are living tissue and so need care and attention. As with any other biological system, their response to a carefully measured load is to increase functional capacity. In other words, if you subject them to weight-bearing movement, they become stronger and more resistant. Function improves. However, if tendons are subject to an excessive load, e.g. the constant stop and go movements involved in basketball, tennis, football, etc. or monotonous movements at work (keyboard overuse) they become irritated and inflamed. Moreover, if calcium is also deposited, the symptoms become chronic.
Metaphysics of Ligaments and Tendons
Some say that whenever we have an issue with the body, there is often a corresponding psycho-emotional stimulus that initiates or exacerbates the physical condition. Folks who are experiencing ‘issues’ with their Dense Connective Tissue may benefit from looking deeper into their ability to “connect to and disconnect from others”, look into circumstances where they feel “tied to or torn apart”, where they are “wearing thin” and “holding on”. Ligaments and tendons have your back! They functionally remind us to seek and discover the path of least resistance…by design; they are there to support, and to unify.
- Ligaments and tendons, while not very elastic, can only extend 8% before over-stretching, separating or tearing. Comparably, rubber extends 200-300%.
- You can suspend a horse from a tendon! The Achilles Tendon, anchoring the gastrocnemius muscle onto the heel bone, is 15cm in length and is the strongest tendon in the body, is able to resist tearing under 1,000 lb. (450 kg) load.
- While the Achilles tendon is extremely strong, it is actually a weak point and so it is vulnerable. It derives its name from the Trojan Hero, Achilles, in Homer’s ’The Iliad‘. (As a baby, his mother plunged him into the river Styx making his body invulnerable, except for the heel by which she held him. After slaying Hector, he was killed by Paris who wounded him in the heel.) In fact, the Achilles Tendon is the tendon in the body most often ruptured!
- In order to have the long, narrow fingers needed for delicate movement (like playing a piano), nature has devised an ingenius system. To ensure that the hand is not packed tight with muscles, the body’s intelligent design provides space by connecting the muscles required for finger movements in the thick belly of the muscles located in the forearm, while the connection with the bones in the finger is provided by long tendons. (Imagine Darth Vader’s ’robot arm‘)
Tips to ‘connect’ and care for your ligaments and tendons:
- Do Nia 5 Stages 5 minutes every day! No questions…JUST DO IT! Your ligaments & tendons (and whole body) will love it! Learn more at www.nianow.com/nia-5-stages.
- ‘Warm up’ the body (muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, etc.) before exercise. Consider exercising in a space that is warm to facilitate tissue pliability
- Avoid doing too much, too fast (yeah, this is for you, “Type-A’ers”)! As with many things, slower is better! Progress in your wellness regime, upping the load 5% at a time. With training, ligaments and tendons, like muscles, become thicker, but the process is much slower.
- Mindfully move your 13 main joints to energetically ‘lube’ the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- Be mindful of right alignment! The mechanical integrity of a joint will depend upon the proper tensioning to the stabilizing ligaments and tendons, which in turn will depend upon proper alignment of the relevant bones.
- The Body’s Way teaches us that “the body demands balance in yin and yang energy”… balance ligament and tendon usage with “opposing usage/stretch”, and rest. Overuse is a common cause of injury.
- When stepping back with force, ALWAYS step back on the ball of the foot, keeping the heel up to prevent injury to the Achilles tendon.
- Initiate into your wellness practice, weight-bearing, muscle-conditioning training (Nia, Yoga, Strength Training, etc.) strengthening the connection between bones and tendons increasing load tolerance. When we tension muscles, we also train ligaments and tendons as the process of muscle contraction also stretches and stimulates ligaments and tendons reducing our susceptibility to injury.
- Listen to ‘the voice’ of your ligaments, helping you determine a safe range of motion for your muscles and joints. They remain healthy when you ‘listen and respond’, especially when the ligament says, ʻStop, that’s far enough.ʼ Responding to the warning ʻstopʼ will safely guide you to shift alignment when necessary. This reduces wear and tear that can occur in joints when you push them too hard.
Body Literacy Research Resources:
The Nia Technique Training Resources by Debbie Rosas-Stewart & Carlos AyaRosas
Anatomy of Movement, by Blandine Calais-Germain
A Handbook for Yogasana Teachers: The Incorporation of Neuroscience, Physiology, and Anatomy in the Practice, by Mel Robin.
Kieser Training International (www.keiser-training.com)
Holistic Reflexology FaceBook Page