Compensation, a way the body orchestrates itself to keep you moving.
At the Athletic Training Institute, we get many questions regarding compensation because correcting compensation patterns is a cornerstone of our practice. Our goal is to get your body to thrive not just survive.
The body is designed to move. Therefore, body is very good at moving from point A to B no matter the circumstance. Compensation is a beneficial human mechanism to ensure the body continues to move even when operating under suboptimal conditions. From an evolutionary standpoint, being able to operate under adverse circumstances or under injury is very advantageous. We begin to run into trouble when we go about everyday activities or sports and our body is still operating with the same survival mechanisms to keep you moving. This can manifest where you constantly are operating in survival mode.
When muscles cannot properly contract, stronger muscles will continue to get stronger, and weaker muscles will continue to get weaker. This happens because stronger muscles are typically sending clearer communication signals to the nervous system while the weak muscles are inhibited in their ability to send this information. Lack of information signaling reduces force output in these specific tissues further confounding the weakness. This is attributed to the fact that when information communication is hindered, either through stress, trauma or overuse, concentric (shortening) of tissues is decreased. In simpler terms, muscles will not move properly if they are not properly sending communication.
Overtime, functioning in survival mode (or compensation mode) is like playing a sport with only 4 out of 10 players. In this example, a sports team is like your body, and the players are your muscles. When the team (the body) is playing with half its players, the team will not be operating at full capacity and the players in the game will have to improve their performance to pick up the slack.
Due to the fact that your body wants you to survive, not necessarily thrive, your system takes the path of least resistance and predominantly utilizes the muscles it has on deck (muscles that are sending proper communication). These compensation patterns can last a while but will eventually show themselves as certain symptoms (see last week’s post regarding symptoms). These manifest themselves into compensation patterns which can be bad if they turn chronic. Some signs of chronic compensation are hunched back, abnormal gait and loss in range of motion.
At the Athletic Training Institute, we seek to reduce compensation patterns to allow your body to thrive by getting your system to utilize its muscular system properly to reduce the negative effects of compensation patterns throughout the body.