Weissfeld R. Mind, trauma & muscle inhibition Part I: Experiment and case history yield novel theory of muscular PTSD [Hypothesis].

Abstract: Background: Musculoskeletal problems are by far the most costly and prevalent group of maladies we face in the U.S. and weakness of individual muscles — clinically revealed through manual  muscle testing — can probably be found in every condition. Muscle weakness is listed as a factor in most named problems — e.g. plantar fascitiis, whiplash, tennis elbow. It is also routinely found in 'non-specific' or unexplained problems, most notably low back pain. Weak muscles can also be found in non-symptomatic areas. Diagnostically known as muscle inhibition, it is nonetheless missing from the 70,000 codes of the International Classification of Diseases. While several mechanisms that may describe the onset of inhibition are well accepted, research fails to present a mechanism for the ongoing persistence of the condition, which is known to outlast even 'successful' healing by decades. Resistant to even aggressive physical therapy and targeted exercise, muscle inhibition is essentially a permanent condition.

Hypothesis: Muscle inhibition is sustained by maladaptive learning. Specifically, previous incidents have inculcated (unconscious) beliefs that use of particular muscles will lead to bad outcomes, creating automatic avoidance of use of those muscles.

Method: We experimentally attempt to treat muscle inhibition by applying a psychotherapeutic technique theorised to erase maladaptive learning by blocking ‘memory reconsolidation’ -the re-storage of memories rendered unstable following recall. Saccadic eye movement (as used in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), an accepted therapy for post traumatic stress) is performed by subjects immediately after testing each weak muscle. Experienced muscle testers applied the method on 136 randomly selected weak muscles in 8 subjects. 

Results: Eye movements immediately strengthened 91% of muscles, with 84% remaining strong 15 days later. Just over half those muscles 'spontaneously' recovered, assumedly a vicarious effect from treatment of preceding muscles. In a control group of 42 weak muscles, 88% remained weak over similar time period. 

Case history: A case history applying this experimental method as the primary therapy adds practical understanding. 

Conclusion: This experiment suggests a novel model of muscular PTSD (mPTSD), in which memories of stress and trauma become associated with the use of certain muscles (or specific vectors of movement) leading to chronic avoidance of use of those muscles.  Erasing the information from the brain that led to that avoidance is the putative mechanism of cure. A simple treatment for inhibition (mPTSD), if broadly accepted, will be a disruptive innovation in musculoskeletal care, which has been ignoring muscle inhibition in both its studies and treatments for over a century.

Indexing Terms: Muscle inhibition, PTSD, chiropractic, theory, hypothesis.

Cite: Weissfeld R. Mind, trauma & muscle inhibition Part I: Experiment and case history yield novel theory of muscular PTSD [Hypothesis]. Asia-Pac Chiropr J. 2021;1.3. URL www.apcj.net/weissfeld-hypothesis-mptsd-part-1/ 


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