Barb e-mailed me a question about her muscles and I said it’s synergistic movement, I was wrong. She said that sometimes opposing muscles will contract, like when she fires her triceps her biceps will also contract. That’s not synergy. Synergistic movement is when a few muscles contract together to perform the same action, such as flexion. My synergistic movement was a flexion synergy. So all of my muscles flexed. That means that my elbow would bend, my wrist would curl, my shoulder would come up, etc. The opposite of flexion is extension. So extension is when the elbow straightens, the wrist straightens and pulls back a little, the fingers straighten. I don’t know why opposing muscle groups would fire. I hate not being able to answer questions!! 😦 She also said that sometimes the muscles are unrelated. There’s one exercise that she does where she’s using her quads and her triceps go off and straighten the arm. That one sounds more like a synergy because both the quads and triceps are extensors but I don’t know about the first example.
Obviously this is an area where we need to know A LOT more. Not as if there isn’t enough research to do about recovering from a stroke. Right after my stroke when I was in the hospital and 2 PTs had to hold me up to walk the entire right side of my body would contract when walking. My elbow would bend, my wrist would curl. This freaked me the hell out even though I had learned about synergistic movement – nothing like the experience. Anyway, so I asked my PT why that was happening and her response to me was “maybe because you’re putting so much effort into it.” I wonder how long she had been working in neurological rehab.