Action = Reaction
Author: Roeland Vollaard, physiotherapist in Alkmaar, The Netherlands.
I’m standing on a wall and I jump off. Just like that guy in the picture. Thanks to gravity, I speed up downwards. It then quickly becomes interesting what’s under my feet. It matters for my landing whether the subsoil is the sail of a trampoline or whether it’s 3 meter deep water…
1. Okay. I’m landing on a trampoline.
When I land in the middle of the trampoline after my jump off the wall, the impact of my weight plus my speed will initially “beat” the strength of the trampoline. I sink in deeply into the trampoline.
Until… the elasticity of the trampoline defeats me. That trampoline works in a smart way. At first, it gives and allows the energy that I contribute to put tension on all the springs on the side. At the deepest point of my sinking in the trampoline, I stand still. Of course my weight is still the same, but the energy of me falling has been absorbed by the springs from the trampoline. And now that trampoline has no trouble, thanks to the tightly stretched springs, to send me back into the air. Action causes reaction.
2. What if I land in the water?
Also in the case of a pool, my weight and speed will first beat the counterforce of the water. Unlike the trampoline, it takes quite a while and I sink deeply into the water. But there comes a point when my speed is completely gone and I am being pushed up. First there is action (pushing through the water with my body). Secondly, a reaction (I will be pushed back by the water). The upward water pressure ultimately has the same effect as the springs of the trampoline; I go up again. But not that hard that I will be catapulted. Just above the water, the upward force is faded and I can swim to the side. This experience feels very different than my jump on the trampoline.
What does this have to do with connective tissue? The Advanced Biomechanical Rehabilitation (ABR) also uses the principle of action and reaction. This biomechanical principle always works for living beings; it is not dependent on good or conscious control by the brain. So understandably, this principle is particularly interesting for people with less brain control. In an earlier article (“Why Sam likes bumpy rides“) I wrote that a healthy adult has about 15 to 20 kilos of connective tissue in his body, depending on the definition of connective tissue. That is a huge amount and until recently the importance of this tissue has been vastly underestimated.
Connective tissue includes 2 thread-like structures, collagen and elastin. The collagen fibers are very strong and rigid. This ensures that our body keeps its shape. The elastic fibers are well stretchable. They are able to return smoothly back to their original position. Both threads are necessary to maintain our posture on the one hand and to allow movement on the other. Together they form the springs of the trampoline. Strong enough to prevent the sail of the trampoline from tearing and elastic enough to make me bounce back again! All cells and fibers of the connective tissue are surrounded by a type of gel that contains a lot of water. That is the “pool”, with all the water molecules in it, that also provides solidity.
You can see the whole as a sponge: if you slowly squeeze it, all the dirty water is pushed out. If you stop squeezing, it will suck up clean water. Part of the ABR method is based on this. By giving pressure to the connective tissue and then releasing it, you “squeeze out and then again fill up the sponge”. This improves the nutritional status of the connective tissue and allows the threads to be better organized. A specific study also shows that in this way you can get more fluid (and therefore more volume) in the connective tissue.
I found the above picture on the internet. It probably comes from a company website that wants to sell a product for wrinkles. On the left you see the situation of a young child; nice and smooth skin. The subcutaneous connective tissue is well filled with moisture and thus thicker than on the right.
Both the collagen threads and the elastin threads look good. They are neatly distributed over the entire space. On the right you see the condition in which my scalp is currently. Less fluid in the connective tissue. The collagen no longer holds the structure well because it is broken down and only a quarter of the elastin is left. There is no sign of a smoothly filled skin on my forehead.
The situation of my wrinkled forehead is similar to connective tissue in the body of people who move little or not at all. Their connective tissue is reduced in size and quality. The thickness and the amount of moisture have decreased. Their situation can improve again by giving specific pressure on that connective tissue. That must be slow enough to be able to sufficiently squeeze out that layer of gel. Then, release pressure to allow the layer of gel to suck up fresh and well-fed moisture. And this long enough every day. But it always works! You have to realize that the collagen fibres take a year to restore 50%. This now brings you very close to the ABR thought: “Building a more comfortable body with soft hands” …
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