Muscle Tonus vs. Tone - is there a difference?


I recall telling a student of mine about how we often use more effort than necessary for a given activity. Initially we are able to get by without much problem. However, eventually it catches up with us, creating limited mobility, movement difficulties, and possibly injury.

My student then told me about her neighbor who was a body builder. Obviously he was well built physically but one day he went to pick up a leaf from his yard and threw his back out. Go figure - a leaf can throw out a back of a body buldier? How could that happen? Let's take a look at the concept of muscle tonus vs. tone... In the book written by Norman Doidge called "The Brain's way of Healing" he says: "Muscle tonus is not the same as muscle tone. Muscle tone often refers to the defined look or visual definition of a muscle on a person. Muscle tonus is the general state of contraction a muscle has even when “relaxed”. Tonus can range from high levels of contraction to low. It is not the same as muscle tone."

From this definition, we can presume that although the body builder had strength and tone, the level of tonus in his system is what threw his back out. When we learn how to reduce unnecessary effort, then the tonus of the muscle is reduced. This is one of the key concepts we explore in the Feldenkrais Method. I noticed that when I use the computer a lot, the tonus in my wrist, arms, and shoulders increase. When this happens, the strength decreases as well. My grip does not feel as strong and I cannot lift as much weight with my arms. So start becoming aware of the tonus in you that may be creating a difficulty for you. Perhaps in your lower back, shoulders, arms, feet?


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