Rodney McBride

A Unique Relationship between Ligaments and Muscles


A Unique Relationship between Ligaments and Muscles

Everyone I suspect has heard about and knows what ligaments are, especially those folks unlucky enough to have experienced a ligament sprain? If you are not sure a quick review will help. 

Ligaments are pieces of connective tissue assigned with the task of holding bones and/or joints in place. The joint itself is an area of the body where the ends of two bones juxtapose. The space between joints is almost entirely immovable but not totally. Some movement in the joint is necessary for the absolute motion of all structures. Ligaments for the most part should be taut around a joint. 

Ligaments also have another interesting component to them. All if not most ligaments are associated with certain muscles in the body. Ligaments just like muscles can become dysfunctional (structural, nutritional, emotional, electrical) and should also be treated if complete function is to be restored. Proprioceptive Deep Tendon Reflex (PDTR) is the only technique that I know of that addresses this link between ligaments and muscles. 

When a ligament is stretched for 1 to 2 seconds the muscles correlated with it should facilitate (turn on) but after 3 or more seconds the muscles should inhibit (turn off). This on and off mechanism is natural and has to be working properly at all times. When this mechanism becomes dysfunctional the most common problem is hypertonic and/or hypotonic ligaments.

Hypertonicity is defined as the inability of a ligament/muscle to shut off when it needs to. Hence it is always on. Hypotonicity is when a ligament/muscle is not even on. Hence it stays off. Trauma (sprains), improper movement, and bad posture can contribute to a hypertonic/hypotonic ligament. Hypertonicity is more prevalent and should be settled first followed by a quick check of hypotonicity of the same ligament.

An example would be hypertonicity of the patellar ligament. This ligament holds the knee cap in place over the knee joint and is also related to the quadriceps muscle on the front of the upper leg. If the pateller ligament is hypertonic the ligament is always on as is the quadriceps muscle which would turn off the hamstrings, glute or calf muscles; contributing to eventual knee, hip, back and/or ankle pain. If the patellar ligament is hypotonic the ligament is always off as is the quadriceps muscle which would mean a lack of stability in the knee area and also eventually contributing to pain. 

Massage will not fix these types of dysfunctions since the issue is a signaling problem within the Nervous System (NS), but massage can be beneficial to the soft tissues once the alteration is complete. Again, PDTR is the only technique that can correct this malfunction and PDTR is what I use with my clients on a regular basis.


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