The Joint Ventures' Blog

New Ways To Test Your Muscles

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Muscle strength testing is a basic component of a physical therapy evaluation.  Some more specific muscle tests have been developed to help clinicians evaluate strength in patients in more detail than with previous testing positions.  There are several benefits to this type of testing for you, the patient. 

Let me start with a few concepts that help to explain why this specific muscle testing can be helpful: 

Our bodies work on a basic premise of energy efficiency.  We often create movement patterns or adopt certain positions or postures that minimize muscle activity and conserve energy.  From a survival standpoint this is a functional process.  Today’s societal norms include a large amount of postural challenges and repetitive activities both in the vocational and recreational setting.  These activities usually fit into this concept of energy efficiency as well and often lead to repetitive strain of certain tissues.  Muscle tissue is fantastically dynamic and, for the most part, can adapt to these repetitive demands.  We accommodate for this demand by increasing the strength and endurance of the muscle tissue being used to help accomplish this.  The commonly used muscles get strong, and efficiency leads us to recruit and use those muscles that are stronger more than those that are weaker.   All tissue has a point at which it cannot handle the demand without some irritation, strain, or breakdown.   This is a classic overuse scenario leading to tendonitis, bursitis, tendinosis and can be found in the wrist, elbow, forearm, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle regions.  These postures, habitual patterns of movement, and drive for energy efficiency commonly lead to this overuse situation. 

These techniques of more specific muscle testing help to identify the muscle tissue that is sore and painful and those tissues that are weaker and not being used and/or strengthened regularly.  With this information, physical therapists can treat the injured tissue with techniques meant to decrease the inflammation and pain, as well as advise appropriate levels of relative rest to optimize healing.  Strength exercise can often be started in the weak muscles during this period as well, as long as more soreness is not created in the overworking muscles.  It is vital to the long term outcome to progress away from pain and overuse slowly, to allow strength to gradually develop in the weak, underutilized muscles to allow return to the desired activity without continued compensation and overuse.  It is a case of really needing to fix the true biomechanical issue to solve the problem.  Gradual return to more functional exercise simulating the desired activity, while insuring good balanced muscle firing is key to getting back to the sport, job or activity that you want. 

If you have any questions regarding this specific muscle strength testing or feel that you may benefit from this type of care, please do not hesitate to contact me:

Christopher Clock, MSPT

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