Why is the gamma loop so important?
When the gamma loop is working properly, everything is great. We contract our muscles when we need to use them, and they automatically relax when we’re done moving.
However, throughout our lives we develop learned motor patterns—habitual ways of standing and moving. As a result of this process of developing muscle memory, we tend to contract certain muscles in the same patterns over and over. When repeated muscle contraction is signaled by the brain, the gamma loop can get out of whack.
When gamma motor neurons become overactive, or when the firing of alpha and gamma motor neurons becomes imbalanced, we experience an increased level of muscle tension, muscle spasms, and even spasticity or rigidity.
This is why the gamma loop is so important. When we lose the ability to fully control and release our muscles, bad things happen. Tight muscles are sore and painful, they pull our skeleton out of alignment, compress our joints, increase our risk of injury, and elevate our blood pressure. Muscle spasticity and rigidity limit our ability to walk, go about our normal daily life, and do any activity requiring fine motor control.
If you’re thinking, “Gosh, those poor people whose gamma loops have gotten out of whack,” take a look in the mirror. Virtually everyone has a higher than normal level of tension in some muscles in their body, and this tension is a result of gamma loop activity.
As we develop habitual ways of standing and moving, and contract our muscles in the same ways over and over, our gamma loop activity adapts by gradually allowing the resting level of tension in our muscles to get higher and higher. Without conscious intervention, this buildup of muscle tension continues throughout our lives. This is why we tend to become stiff, tight, and have limited movement as we get older: it’s a buildup of muscle tension, plain and simple.