You have had therapy, but your pain reoccurs or your performance in life/sport improves only temporary and you are back to the deficits that prevented optimal performance in the first place. Unfortunately, these scenarios are more typical than not. This can be a result of something that has been in the medical literature for a long time called sensory mismatch. Sensory mismatch occurs when the information the brain is receiving from its sensory systems i.e. vision system (eyes), vestibular system (inner ears), proprioceptive system (joints, organs, soft tissue) do not match, and the brain would have a problem integrating the information appropriately. Thus, leading to the aforementioned scenarios.
Let’s look at the brain as our neural GPS and its function is to locate you in space using the three “satellites” of the neural hierarchy i.e. your visual, vestibular and proprioceptive systems. For proper functioning to occur the following must happen;
- The information from each satellite must be clear and understandable to the brain.
- The brain must be able to correctly integrate all that information together.
“In high functioning athletes, this is an almost mystical capability. It happens without conscious thought, with complete integrity, leading to extraordinary human movement and performance”. Eric Cobb DC
What is Sensory Mismatch?
Whenever the brain our neural GPS gets confused or malfunctions i.e. information it receives from its “satellites” visual, vestibular and proprioceptive systems don’t match. A common example of this is motion sickness which is when the information from the visual and vestibular don’t match and the brain cannot manage the discrepancy. As the brain perceives the threat of the mismatch going up it would initiate varying actions such as nausea, vomiting and vertigo to illicit a change in behavior.
Although all forms of sensory mismatch are not as debilitating like motion sickness, however there are many forms of mild sensory mismatch that are creating significant disturbances in movement and/or leading to pain.
Biomechanical effects of Sensory Mismatch
Here’s a simple example, your eyes a functioning properly, however you have mild damage to your left vestibular system. As a result, your brain is getting information your body is turning right constantly. Here we have is a strong case of sensory mismatch with the eyes and inner ear telling the brain different things. The system that’s lowest in the neural hierarchy pays the price i.e. the proprioceptive system. Over a prolonged period of such sensory mismatch can cause myofascial tension which can lead to structural changes throughout the body. Thus, leading to movement deficits and/or pain. Therefore, looking at your movement deficits or pain from a purely biomechanical perspective could often miss the mark of the causes of your pain or movement deficits.
Here is a list of possible consequences of sensory mismatch
- Motion Sickness
- Muscle Tension
- Scoliosis/Fascial Winding
- Poor Coordination
- ZHealth Performance Solutions; I Phase Certification Manual
- Class Notes from several classes in the ZHealth curriculum.