Tuesday 29 August 2017

Central Nervous System Fatigue

When we're looking at mechanisms that can lead to injury or illness, we tend to to focus on the peripheral systems in the body: the muscles, the bones, the nerves around them. Less frequently is the central nervous system discussed. Interesting, considering that the CNS is what controls and dictates our entire body.

Most likely, people are stuck in the misconception that if we use our brain to tell the body to do something, and it doesn't happen properly, that it's the fault of the receiving mechanism of the signal on the way down. With the exception of when someone receives a traumatic brain injury, we don't often consider that it may be changes with the CNS itself that is leading to improper function.

However, central fatigue is a real occurrence that shouldn't be disregarded, whether it has to do with day-to-day function, training, or rehab.

By what central fatigue is, it involves a complex system of chemicals and neurotransmitters that affect the central nervous system, such as dopamine, seratonin, adrenaline, and more. I'm not well-educated in the biochemistry of the nervous system, so I won't try to go deeper than that. I will point out that, normally, central fatigue is a regular part of functioning physiology, as it's one of the signals that ensures that we allow the body to receive proper recovery.

It's shown quite often that central fatigue plays a role in increased perception of effort as well decreased electrical activity (and thus, strength) in muscles.

The problem is when that central fatigue is propagated by irregular factors, such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, and possibly even with mental illnesses as common as depression.

There`s very little research done directly regarding the effects of central fatigue on strength development, injury, and recovery as opposed to peripheral nervous system factors. However, simply being aware that these central changes can affect our peripheral function creates significant implications.

When it comes to treating or training clients who have concurrent physical mental illnesses, this is a good reminder to consider central nervous changes that may affect progress.

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