The Power of Head Nods
Feb 08, 2021
In the Original Strength System, we place a premium on reestablishing or refining head control in order to become bulletproof and improve performance. This is accomplished through head nodding and looking around. These movements move the head and neck in flexion and extension rotation and even some lateral bending.
Now one might wonder how performing such simple movements of the head neck can have a profound effect on bulletproofing and performance?
I sat down with our very own, OS Master Instructor and resident neurology nerd, Dr. Mike Musselman, to dive a little deeper on how it has such a profound effect, and the answer is simple. It lies in the role of the vestibular nuclei.
Dr. Mike said that according to Guyton’s Textbook of Medical Physiology, “All vestibular nuclei function in association with the pontine reticular nuclei to control the antigravity muscles. The vestibular nuclei transmit strong excitatory signals in the antigravity nuclei by way of the lateral and medial vestibulospinal tracts in the anterior columns of the spinal cord. Without the support of the vestibular nuclei, the pontine reticular system would lose much of its excitation of the axial antigravity muscles.”(pg 692)
One might say, “that’s a great quote Dr. Mike but what the heck does that have to do with nodding my head and increasing my reflexive strength?” To which I would say, “That’s a great question. The answer is tons and it does it through the vestibular system Let me explain.”
When you nod your head i.e. cervical (flexion-extension) you stimulate the vestibular apparatus. This is true whether you are lying on your stomach in command of position or the quadruped position when you do look arounds, you stimulate the vestibular apparatus. This is also true whether you are lying on your back in the commando position or in the quadruped position. Now the vestibular apparatus is connected to the vestibular nuclei via the vestibular nerve. So when you are regaining or refining head control you are stimulating the vestibular system.
What exactly is a vestibular system anyways?
The vestibular system, made up of a tiny gyroscope in the inner ear, helps detect gravity, movement, and other sensations to help your body stay balanced.
This system is one of our sensory systems (along with sight, smell, touch, taste, sound, proprioceptive) and is constantly communicating with the brain (even at rest as it detects even just the pull of gravity) and provides important input to our muscles regarding movement.
So when we think about moving our head and doing simple head nods, we are stimulating the vestibular nuclei through the proprioceptive input from the cervical spine. When you flex, extend, rotate, latterly bend or combine any of these movements you create proprioceptive input from the muscle spindles and the type I, II, and III mechanoreceptors located in the joints as well as the proprioceptors located in and under the skin.
This information is fed into the vestibular nuclei either through the vermis of the thalamus or directly into the vestibular nuclei via the monosynaptic connections from the muscle spindles and joint receptors of the upper cervical spine.
I like to say this input does more than just stimulate the vestibular nuclei, it activates the ENTIRE vestibular system.
It is this activation of the vestibular nuclei that either immediately fires the axial antigravity muscles or it primes the system so that as soon as you change positions or load the musculoskeletal system the axial antigravity muscles immediately fire.
Now, if you’re still following, I know that was quite a mouthful, that all means that this activation of the axial antigravity muscles increases spinal stability and performance. So, in short, moving your head increases spinal stability (or more simply, posture) and performance. It’s as simple as that.
We don’t have to stop there though.
The stimulation of the vestibular system, which is one of the key pillars of Original Strength, doesn’t just help the body move better and perform better, it also helps improve brain health.
Our brain requires movement for healthy:
- Attention and Focus ability
- Impulse Control
- Emotional Grounding
- Sensory development in children
It’s important that our brain receives stimulation through gentle movement to help prime the mind and body for what lies ahead.
While the movements (RESETs) we teach within Original Strength may seem incredibly simple and easy to do, there is so much powerful and complex action happening within our body that humans just cannot go without.
So you see, head nods are pretty simple-seeming, but they really do have a profound effect on not just human performance, but everyday life!
Let's get to vestibulating and start getting those head nods and rolls into the lives of the people you're working with.
Need more info on the vestibular system? Check out this video Original Strength Founder, Tim Anderson did a while back
Dani has worked in the health and fitness industry for the last 15 years and is managing partner of Original Strength, a co-owner of OS Institute in North Carolina and OSi Online, and has a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science. She brings an abundance of energy, passion, and an incredible drive to help the world regain its Original Strength. Almeyda, a mother of two, and wife to a firefighter is dedicated to serving her family and community.
Dr. Mike Mussleman
Mike joined the Original Strength Team after attending one of our very first certification courses. His passion and knowledge of the spine and nervous system is something we are constantly picking and learning from.
Dr. Mike has been providing chiropractic care to the good people of Minnesota for more than 15 years and is committed to teaching the world how effective pressing reset is on developing and retraining the nervous system.