Motor control and the management of musculoskeletal dysfunction

Man Ther. 2006 Aug;11(3):208-13. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2006.03.009. Epub 2006 Jun 15.


This paper aims to develop understanding of three important motor control issues--feedforward mechanisms, cortical plasticity and task-specificity and assess the implications for musculoskeletal practice. A model of control for the reach-to-grasp movement illustrates how the central nervous system integrates sensorimotor processes to control complex movements. Feedforward mechanisms, an essential element of motor control, are altered in neurologically intact patients with chronic neck pain and low back pain. In healthy subjects, cortical mapping studies using transcranial magnetic stimulation have demonstrated that neural pathways adapt according to what and how much is practised. Neuroplasticity has also been demonstrated in a number of musculoskeletal conditions, where cortical maps are altered compared to normal. Behavioural and neurophysiological studies indicate that environmental and task constraints such as the goal of the task and an object's shape and size, are determinants of the motor schema for reaching and other movements. Consideration of motor control issues as well as signs and symptoms, may facilitate management of musculoskeletal conditions and improve outcome. Practice of entire everyday tasks at an early stage and systematic variation of the task is recommended. Training should be directed with the aim of re-educating feedforward mechanisms where necessary and the amount of practice should be sufficient to cause changes in cortical activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Feedback / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology*
  • Neck Pain / rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy Modalities