Just to be clear, not all the benefits of the movements and exercises below can be attributed to the homunculus. But I think at least some of the results can be explained through improvement of the body-maps. And of course, these examples are not magical, and thus results may vary from surprisingly good to none at all…
For people after a leg injury or surgery, being able to walk normally is an important goal. But often this is difficult due to pain, swelling, stiffness, immobilisation issues, and, I hypothesise, due to suboptimal body-maps. They have been walking less than normal (or not at all), and in one particular and protective way. This can be very adaptive and health promoting in the first stage, but at a given time, they need to walk normally again.
One way I like to get them to walk is in lots of different ways: normal, with feet wide apart or narrow, or on a line, tiptoeing, on the outside of the foot, feet pointing out or in, making oneself small, forward, backward, sideward, eyes open or closed, looking in another direction, on different floor surfaces (cold tiles, warm floor, mat, grass, …)… And in all possible combinations, of course limited by the patients abilities.
I just let them do this in my short hallway, every possibility only one time, and very often, there is an immediate improvement in their ‘normal’ gait pattern.
Our feet are very good at feeling, but unfortunately, most feet are left under-stimulated. Most always wear shoes (aka sensory deprivation boxes), and if people take out there shoes, it is at home, on smooth and even surfaces.
Stimulate your feet with rather hard manual pressures, tennis balls, standing on a stick, walking on gravel, a rough backdoor mat, … All these things can easily be done at home. The stimulation can be firm and even a bit painful, but you should feel relaxed afterwards. Results are often surprising, ranging from better muscle tone in lower leg (e.g. decrease in tensed muscles), better balance, posture and simply less pain.
Ground sitting transitions (floor to floor, floor to standing)
Another one of my favourites is sitting on the ground, and transitioning from one position to the other, and to lying or standing. I wrote about it in a previous post.
Rolling and crawling
I like rolling and crawling for a lot of reasons, but because most people never roll and crawl, these movements provide a lot of new, varied, whole body, safe, rather playful and certainly natural input for your body maps. As always, you need to adjust the intensity according to the person’s ability.
A particular rolling exercise I use often is inspired by Gray Cook (see here for example video). Roll with only one quarter of your body, relax the rest of your body as much as possible. If the pain allows, I like to let the patients experiment and play with these patterns, so they can find the most efficient way(s) to roll on their own. I even advice them to deliberately try different patterns, even strange ones. Let the brain select the patterns it likes the most. Only if they have too much pain, then I guide the person towards a better way to roll with less pain and more movement efficiency.
People really like this exercise a lot. And if people really like an exercise, that means something!
Again, surely the effects of the examples I gave can be explained in different ways, and they probably are caused by different mechanisms, but the input they provide to the body maps is at least contributing to their usefulness in therapy. And of course, these are just a few examples.
Thanks for reading,