Over the next few weeks the Melbourne Osteopathy Group is going to be writing and posting on What is Osteopathy for your reading pleasure. The first instalment in this series is “How Your Brain Sees Your Body”.
The brain is constantly receiving information from your body as to what is occurring. The more you use an area or a movement the more the brain “reads it” and this determines how the brain perceives the body.
Neuroscientists refer to this centre as the Homunculus and it looks a little like Mick Jagger inspired house elf from Harry Potter. The areas that are larger are those that send the greatest information to the brain.
The brain’s view of the body is also under constant change and this is partly based on how we use, or don’t, use it. For example a blind person reading braille develops a larger index finger, a tightrope walker would command greater brain real estate for the feet, and a politician’s nose would annex the entire face.
Pain, injury and dysfunction can also influence how the brain sees the body and therefore influence how we use our body. We know from detailed brain mapping that “nerves that fire together wire together” so changes to the body and movements as a result of pain and injury may also influence how your brain sees the body. Over time our normal movements can become distorted which can in turn perpetuate and prolong the problem. How much brain real estate does long term computer/device based posture command?
Osteopaths use their knowledge of the human body as a whole and use manual techniques to influence how the body is structured and therefore how it functions. If an injury, pain, and/or dysfunction can distort how the body views itself then relieving pain and restoring function may assist in refining the brains view of the body, allow it to function better, which may then allow the recovery process to begin.
Further education on how we can use the body better may also influence and sharpen the brains view of the body allowing for recovery and prevention of further injury.
Treatment, management, or rehabilitation can only be enhanced by a greater understanding of each intricate part of the human body and how it relates to the function of the whole. Osteopaths pride themselves on the study of this concept.
Understanding how the brain views the body and how the body can influence the brain forms an important concept of our understanding.