When people hear the words muscle memory, they generally associate these words with the body’s ability to make gains towards strength levels due to previous training. If a set of muscles have a history of performing specific movements, the memory of these movements remains and the body remembers how to coordinate them. This is a good thing as it means that if we have a history of exercise and take a break for a period of time, we generally get our strength back to where we left off in a much shorter time frame.
However there are some instances in which muscle memory can work against us. Take an injury for example. When we sustain an injury not only do we remember the pain and disability associated with the injury, our body remembers the movement patterns that we needed to overcome the injury.
If we sprain an ankle we start to limp to avoid further damage to the injured area and to facilitate healing. While the injury and our movements start to return to normal there are certain situations in which our body feels threatened and reverts back to this memory of compensation patterns. In the case of the sprained ankle, it may be as simple as stepping on a slightly uneven surface that makes our foot slightly wobble.
The more this happens, the more ingrained these compensation patterns are. This is why it is important to ensure that following injury, proper rehabilitation is undertaken to build up our comfort zone reducing our body’s vulnerability and the likelihood of regression into poor compensation patterns.