Postural Restoration and the Autonomic Nervous System Understanding how to control the nervous system to reduce stress can lead to an improved athletic performance By Steve Cuddy, M.P.T., P.R.C.
Part I: Things to Remember • The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) controls and fine tunes many important physiological functions like heart rate, breathing patterns, and the regulation of stress hormones and metabolites—which are essential when preparing an athlete for activity. • A properly functioning ANS helps the human machine rest when it’s time to recover.
Postural Restoration Ron Hruska, founder of The Postural Restoration Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska, is a physical therapist who recognized common postural patterns in his patients that caused a variety of musculoskeletal and neuromuscular problems. He found that these patterns, essentially based on the asymmetrical nature of the human body, could be addressed through an understanding 66 • au sti nf Itm agazi ne.c om • 01.2 015
of the likelihood that one’s body becomes rigid and less adaptable the more one is driven by an over-stimulated or imbalanced autonomic nervous system. Rigidity can be thought of in terms of posture (increased muscle tone) as well as a lack of ability to flip from a stimulated to a relaxed state. Through objective testing, a PRI-trained therapist or strength coach can recognize the patterns of a poorly adapting patient or athlete. Contrary to most methods of rehabilitation, this practice appreciates that the presentation of an athlete or patient—their posture and gait, range of motion, breathing pattern, sensitivity to pain and other stimuli—is, in part, a reflection of the state of their nervous system and the ANS in particular. This understanding helps guide the therapist or coach in developing a treatment or training program for the athlete. Postural Restoration examination of a sympathetic-dominant patient shows that with an altered breathing pattern, neck and back muscles are unable to relax upon inhalation
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