Any form of motor activity such as walking, swimming, golfing, all requires learning complex muscle movements in a proper sequence. What we call ‘muscle memory’ is not actually the memory stored in your muscles, but the memory stored in your brain. This is why they say that you can never forget to ride a bike!
To change your muscle memory, you have to do it by training your brain to contract and relax muscles so that they can learn healthy movement patterns. In physiotherapy, we use muscle memory to help retrain our injured patients how to move or walk again.
I have recently been rehabilitating a 95 year old who has been bed bound for almost three months due to being extremely unwell with several infections. In her physiotherapy sessions she began to learn how to sit out of bed a few hours at a time and to walk again using an aid to give her support.
When first learning the task, her movement was slow, stiff and easily disrupted if she was not fully attending to it. With practice, her execution of the task became smoother, the limb stiffness and strength improved, and she has been able to increase her distance walking without having to consciously be aware of every step she takes.
Muscle memory is key to rehabilitating our patients, of every age group and with every condition.
Written by Hily Perpinyal, Chartered Physiotherapist