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Curing Tourette’s Part 5 – Sequential vs Simultaneous Movement

This part 5 in the series Curing Tourette’s, where I write about everything I think might be relevant to the period in the last 15 months when I have been able to go from severe, prohibitive, self-injurious tics to being tic free. Nothing that follows is medical advice. It’s just me thinking this out in public trying to spot patterns. I hope you get something out of it.

The more I think about what I associate with better or worse Tourette’s, the less articulate I feel. When I have completed this series, however long it takes, I’ll probably go back and refine everything. But if you’re here for help, thank you for your patience with some of my ramblings and my goal is always to turn up something worthwhile to experiment with.

What I talk about today may have more application to larger tics. My thoughts on sequential and simultaneous movements have all come from my biggest tics, because they are usually the most uncomfortable and disruptive and resolving them usually is the priority.

Also, I haven’t figured out how to apply anything I’m about to say to vocal tics, as they are their own weird sport.

Point A and B

I view tics as simple movement, not much different than performing an exercise. An exercise is simply a movement pattern. Adding weights is simply moving against resistance.

Every movement has a point A and a point B. Watch this video of a kettlebell military press.

“Hard” style is right! by which I mean, that was way, way harder than it needed to be. What are points A and B on a military press? Point A = the kettlebell is on your chest. Point B = it is locked out over your head. A straight line is not always possible during a movement, but hopefully we can agree that in general, straight lines are more efficient than curves.

Is it possible to press in a straight line? Absolutely. Why is this guy not doing it? I have no clue. Here is how this fits in to simultaneous and sequential movement: the press in the video is an example of sequential movement. His elbow leaves his chest. The bell is brought out to 90. Only then does he begin to press. There are a lot of moving parts here, more than I can account for sensibly, given what point A and point B are.

A line would be more efficient. It would also be easier if the line can be performed painlessly, which is not always the case.

The straight line would be closer to a simultaneous movement. From point A to point B, as little effort is expended as possible, and as little tension as necessary is generated, because the body is working as hard as it needs to to get from point A to point B, and no harder.

Let’s look at point A and B in tics.

Tourette’s as stress resolution

I’m not talking about therapy as in “Oh man I’m so stressed out.” I view the urge to have a tic as a stress. Whichever tic comes after the urge is felt is how the stress gets resolved–meaning, the urge is momentarily satisfied. The point at which the stress is resolved is point B.

Some of my tics are sequential and some are simultaneous. I would consider a small, rapid tick like blinking the eyes once a simultaneous movement. Sequential tics are usually the big ones. Multiple limbs may be involved. Lots of moving parts.

I used to crank my head to the right while also grinding my teeth and grinding my left instep into the ground. To an observer it would look like it all happened at the same time, but the tic was definitely led from the head. Once it moved, everything snapped into place in rapid succession and the stress was resolved.

And a year ago, this became my question: which of my sequential movements could be broken down into components, and which of them can my large tics also be made more simultaneous than they are?

First I want to tell you about how I try to break my sequential tics into components

Continuing the head, teeth, instep example. It still had a point A and a point B. But at point B there were at least three movements that had taken place to resolve the urge of one tic. (That’s kind of hard to explain if you can’t feel it, but the urge to move multiple body parts does not feel significantly different than the urge to move one).

So my first goal was to see if I could take one part out of the movement and still resolve the stress and alleviate the urge to have the tic. When I would feel the urge to have this particular tic, I would let my head go, consciously relax my jaw, and let my instep do whatever it wanted. It did the same thing as before, but I was able to get the stress resolved even though my teeth had not been grinding in between point A and B.

I experimented with taking my instep out of the tic and letting my teeth grind. I tried keeping my head still and starting the sequential tic at the grinding teeth. The more I worked on this, my association was eventually this: The head is the only part that matters. The more I let my head do what it wanted while trying to curb or squash the two following in the sequence, the more that just moving my head was enough.

And once I was only moving my head, I was only dealing with a simultaneous movement, which had less potential to harm me, since there were fewer moving parts.

Does that make any sense at all?

Things to try

If you’re having big, sequential tics, you probably know exactly what they are. If you’re interested in trying the experiment, I would recommend letting your tics occur naturally as you observe. Write down every single moving part you can think of. Try to determine if one of those movements in the sequence feels like it is where the urge starts, even if you can’t tell for sure.

Play around with eliminating whichever movements in the tic sequence that you can while trying to gauge whether or not it actually relieves your urges at all.

Try making all of your complicated tics as simple as possible to start with. We want the trip from point A to point B to be as smooth and simultaneous as possible, with as few moving parts as possible.

And if you’re a parent with a Tourettic child, try watching their movements. Try to count how many separate segments a large tic has.

In the next installment I’m going to talk about some of my associations with making the last remaining movement in the sequence easier to deal with.

Good luck!

Many of the ideas in this post originated from material that I first engaged with at the Level 1 Biomechanics certification conducted by members of The Movement in Minneapolis. I have had to deviate from the original ideas in many ways due to my own weird situation, but the seeds came from: Frankie Faires, Adam Glass, and Mike T. Nelson.


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  • cinderkeys December 15, 2010, 11:28 pm

    That is really interesting. Seems like you could apply this to more areas of life than just Tourette’s, but I’ll have to think about how.

  • Tomas December 16, 2010, 6:26 am

    To say the least, very interesting, Josh!