To understand the Nervous system even better, it is impossible to avoid talking about some basic neurology. This is key, so please try to follow closely.
The brain can be divided into three subsystems: the hindbrain, the midbrain, and the forebrain. When you decide to move, your nervous system follows a chain of command starting with the forebrain, which is the hardware of your most conscious software program that transforms your motivation to move into an actual neurological plan. This conscious plan then travels through the mid and hindbrain where subconscious strategies are developed to execute your plan. Once the plan and strategy are established the spinal cord transmits this information from the brain to the muscles.
Here is where your decision to move is affected by feedback from your joints and muscles. The strategies that your brain came up with to execute your movement plan have to be processed and adapted by the information your brain receives about the tension in the muscles that are involved with this movement. In other words, the muscle tension determines the length of the muscle and the corresponding amount of force and speed needed to make your movement plan happen!
Remember earlier when I said that it was your “tone” that affected the quality of your movement? This feedback system not only allows you to move smoothly, accurately and efficiently, it also helps maintain your posture and balance. It is crucial for the quality of movement, posture, and balance. In essence, we need this feedback to move, but we also need to move to get this feedback.
Stiffness and pain arise when there is a dysfunction in this neuromuscular system. Unfortunately, this dysfunction is usually a conditioned response of the nervous system. Because of a lack of movement, muscle control becomes more mindless and automatic…controlled by the hindbrain. This means that muscles are receiving signals to contract all day long without you even knowing about it! Chronic tension like this reduces blood flow and oxygen to the muscles which cause lactic acid to build up and produces a sense of soreness, tightness and weakness.
Your joints then become stiffer and stiffer, accelerating pain and inflammation.