are only old if you don't learn new tricks"
Peter Robb 10 July2009
Various cross crawl exercises
are a way to reprogram the nervous system, spinal muscles and various systems to work optimally
Humans are contralateral beings in reference to their neurological organization. The automatic sequencing of upright muscle movement (walking and running) is meant to be always coordinated the same way. That is the right arm goes forward, the left leg will do the same and when the left arm goes forward, the right leg will do the same. This is what is meant by a contralateral (cross pattern) neurological organization.
These are learned processes. They start to be learned by crawling on the ground as an infant. They are further developed by learning to walk and run, and by various games that children play. The complex patterns of which are stored in the nerve messaging patterns of the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum and spinal and peripheral nerves. These manage the switch on - switch off co-ordination of the muscles of locomotion, posture and corrective activity to maintain balance.
When you start new exercise patterns, what the nervous system does is it builds new connections.
Nerves are NOT inanimate wires that transfer electrochemical signals.
They are alive and they form new connections.
Take the time to look at a couple of short video clips of nerves under a microscope. The active cells with the brush like ends are the nerve cells making new connections. Every time I see these clips I am amazed at how active nerve cells are.
As you exercise more, you create and grow a stronger series of connections. They become more active with use. In fact if you don't use nerves, and they don't get a minimal amount of stimulus, they die. This brings home the old saying "if you don't use it you lose it". The bit you lose is the nerve that activates the tissue. If the nerve dies off then the body part connected
to that nerve either won't work well or if enough nerves die off, it won't work at all.
There is another saying. "The more you use it the more you get it back".
This is the reason why athletes, swimmers, musicians, gymnasts spend so much time "practicing". What they are doing is ensuring they have the most nerve connections and function around the skills that they want to perform at their peak. We can all switch on more control and more function too. We do this by exercising. In this case we would do it with the "Cross Crawl Marching". With a cross crawl patterning, we rebuild and reset nerve function. We regain stability
However, under certain circumstances, usually following some sort of trauma, this instantaneous contralateral synchronization becomes confused, (right leg forward with right arm forward). This results in neurological disorganization, which results in poor co-ordination, balance, liability to subluxate the spine and pelvic joints.
Let us say your body gets a shock to the system. This can instantaneously results in a disorganisation of the nerve impulses. It is important to understand that this can affect both the motor impulses, going from the brain to the body directing it to work in a certain way and the sensory impulses, going from the body to the brain, providing feedback monitoring as to how the body is performing. The nerves are working, but not as co-operating members of your body’s team.
The consequences of this disorganization can be multiple, and may manifest themselves in four
main categories which can be summarized as:
incorrect tone in the muscles of the spine (leading to easy reformation of subluxations)
poor co-ordination of spinal muscles.
allergies (incorrect response to an element or organism that is foreign to the body),
learning disabilities: dyslexia and more (incorrect perception of visual or auditory
information, or incorrect reproduction of that information). Many of these problems
happen on a brain, brain stem, or spinal cord level.
"The problem is that people are still afraid of the brain.
This is a shame, since it is surely the most fixable organ in the human body. These children who are only a little bit hurt
are going to have, in most cases, very large problems. This would be tragic under any circumstance, but it is particularly
tragic when the nature of their problems is very well understood and has been for many years, and the solution to their
problems is very well understood and has been for many years."(1)
So it can be both important and useful to correct this sort of nerve disorganisation.
Exercise (Cross Crawl)
"Marching" is one of the easiest ways to activate your brain and nervous system to give it the proper motor and sensory stimuli it needs to take control of your bodily functions to either prevent or to rehabilitate problems. This exercise should only be done to an EARLY fatigue stage. Meaning that at the first sign that your muscles are tired, stop the exercise. A "march" is considered to be the raising of one arm and opposite leg. Perform the exercise as follows:
March in place, lifting an arm and the opposite leg as high as possible TOGETHER. Speed is not as important as full range of motion. In fact the slower this exercise is performed the greater
the control necessary and the greater the benefits. The more range of motion you achieve, the more stimulus your brain receives and the greater the incentive the brain has to establish its new pattern. Again, stop at early signs of fatigue. Ideally, you should perform between 200-500 marches a day. If you manage to do the exercise very slowly, do 200 marches. Otherwise do the 500. The slower you do this exercise the greater the level of balance and control that you need to acquire and the greater the benefits to you as you master the exercise.
One of my patients, Phil, really took to doing the cross crawl. He did it as a means of exercise in short breaks from a desk bound job. He found it kept him alert. I found that his spinal improvement was far greater than anyone else who had similar starting deficits on
their initial examinations.
You can go to www.metronomeonline.com to use a metronome. Set the time for 40 beats per minute, turn up the volume. Do the cross crawl exercises or the variations below in precise time to the beat of the metronome. There should not be any lead or lag in the end point of either the arm or opposite leg movement. This assists in developing the cerebellum's forward planning ability. This is helpful in the avoidance of falls as you get older, and improves co-ordination in all who diligently perform the exercises.
For children, see http://books.google.com/books for an excerpt on cross crawl for how to make the exercises fun. Adults can also do the cross crawl like this as well. See if there is still a child at heart in you somewhere.
• Do the Cross Crawl movements but in an exaggerated march to move about.
• Alternately touch each hand to the opposite knee.
• Cross Crawl as you sit, moving opposite arm and leg together.
• Cross Crawl moving limbs in different directions.
• Reach behind the body to touch the opposite foot.
• Do a slow-motion Cross Crawl, reaching opposite arm and leg to their full limit.
• Skip (or bounce lightly) between each Cross Crawl movement.
• Cross Crawl with your eyes closed. (to improve balance)
(Do this with someone to help you till you get the hang of doing this confidently.)
• Pretend to swim while Cross Crawling.
• Use colour-coded stickers or ribbons on opposite hands and feet for children.
• Cross Crawl using a variety of music and rhythms.
• Cross Crawl on hands and knees on the floor.
If you are not clear about what you are to do, ask me for clarification at your next visit.