I named this post Barb because this was completely her idea and she has emailed me with questions and given me multiple ideas for blog posts.  Thanks Barb!  🙂  Usually I have an answer.  I hate not having an answer.  It reminds me that I don’t know everything.  This is what she emailed me this morning and I didn’t have an answer for her.  GRRRRR!

“While taking inventory and stretching this morning, I remembered asking an OT about something, but getting an unsatisfactory answer. Maybe you can do better:

How come I straighten my fingers in the morning while I stretch when I can’t otherwise? She said that it was because I can have involuntary control without having voluntary control.

Why is that? And is there any significance to having involuntary control?”

I don’t agree with the involuntary vs. voluntary control answer.  Involuntary control is like when the muscles of your stomach contract, it just happens, you don’t control it.  So it would have nothing to do with skeletal muscles.  Muscles of organs are called smooth muscles.  Muscle muscles like your quads, biceps, and finger muscles are called striated (skeletal) muscles.  I could tell you craploads of stuff about why certain things feel different in the morning and are harder to do but this has me stumped.  I don’t like being stumped!!!!!!!

Categories: Brain stuff, Recovery, Rehab, Stroke stuff

Tags: , , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. I have experienced exactly the same thing, and I think it is called pandiculation, a type of stretching upon awakening. We extend our limbs and extend our fingers just like a cat extends her claws. It was unclear if it was considered totally voluntary from what I read, but I experience it as voluntary. It starts just as I’m waking up, and the first stretch feels not completely conscious (not involuntary, just not completely conscious), but then I am able to do it repeatedly and consciously as i become more awake.Then it disappears as I wake up fully and start to sit up and get out of bed. Why can’t we extend our fingers during the day? Does it have to do with position (lying down in bed) or relaxation? Amy, Barb – we need to figure this out so we can use it to gain function. If we can do it semi-consciously it means that the pathways are there. Has anyone else experienced this?

  2. I experience this phenomenon, but on a larger scale, so I don’t know if it’s the same thing Barb is talking about. When I wake up in the morning, my left side feels normal, but as soon as I throw off the covers and put my foot on the floor, spasticity grips me, and the more I move during the day, the worse the spasticity gets. I think there’s a term for it: velocity-induced spasticity or something like that. I can’t recall where I read about it. I’ve read so much about stroke since I had one that all the information has blended into one big, confusing blur.

    • Hmmm that’s interesting. I learned that all spastcity is velocity-dependent but you seeem to have a unique kind of spasticity. So it gets worse when the muscles get warmed up and stretched out?

      • Yes. I can stretch then swim or ride my stationary bike and when I’m finished, I can barely move my left side. So, it sounds like this has nothing to do with Barb’s issue, so ignore my derail.

  3. i too have wondered about this phenom. On awakening as I stretch my fingers on my affected side straighten beautifully. other times not at all. I can’t help but be encouraged that the capacity to straighten is there. I love your blog. Thank you.

  4. Zack can straighten and move anything he wants, really. You better just look out ’cause he might clock you. The precision isn’t quite there. This is why I have slept on the couch many nights. When he was really sick I never slept in bed because any time he moved he smacked me. I wasn’t fond of waking up in the middle of the night to a back hand in the face or a knee to the thigh. He was karate chopping me without even meaning to. It is getting better though. He’s only hit me once since he’s been home.

    His roommate at CNS, a 21 year old kid who had a stroke while having brain surgery from a TBI, has spasticity in his left leg. His left arm can no straighten out pretty well, but he has very little to no control over it. He exercised his arm faithfully every single evening. He wanted to be able to use it so badly. He functions really well without it, though. He’s a cool kid. I am always amazed at how you guys do what you guys do.

  5. This happens to me. I wake up relaxed with the best muscle movement of the day. As I start to use my muscles, they contract; and because they’re weak, they stay contracted rather than returning to a more normal, elongated state. I’ve been taught that strength training is key to helping the muscles stay or return to their proper state after use.

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