Building the Physiological Savings Account part 3

Mobility & Coordinated Movement

Mobility has become an incredibly hot topic as of late and I think for a lot of the right reasons. The term mobility is a bit nebulous, however. Mobility can be thought of simply as of our bodies capacity to adopt a certain position or movement. This can be broken down into the ability of an individual joint to achieve a certain range or the entire body to demonstrate a specific movement pattern. The essence of mobility is not just about a joint bending or moving a certain way, but is a coordinated effort of the nervous system in conjunction with muscles, bones, ligaments, and the vascular system. Within each of these pieces lies the ability to improve or disrupt your ability to move and move well. For that reason alone it is important that we think of mobility and movement as a more complex task and improving our ability to move can be equally complex. The idea of simply stretching a joint or massaging a muscle to gain mobility may not do the trick for several reasons.

First, when we stretch or massage tissue we impart a force that is designed to change the tissue quality, and if the tissues ability to move improves, then the idea is that our movement patterns should also improve. But with this treatment application we also impart a stimulus to the nervous system and this input alone has the ability to change mobility. Bottom line here is that there isn’t always a one-to-one relationship of “I apply a force to a tissue, movement changes, then the tissue must be at fault.”

Secondly, quality movement is not just contingent on the ability of a joint to express a specific amount of range of motion, regardless of active or passive motion. Effective movement is an orchestrated event that requires multiple systems to be in tune, on time, and well rehearsed. And who is the conductor of this coordinated effort? The nervous system. Because of this it is important to think of coordinated movement/mobility as more then just an issue with stiffness. The approach to addressing movement errors will require a detailed understanding of what system or systems appear to involved and then piecing together an approach to address each individually and then collectively. If the ankle joint is stiff and that’s why you have difficulty walking down the stairs, the ankle stiffness will need to be addressed. BUT then you must go back and retrain the movement to some degree. With new found range comes new requirements that the body is not accustomed to having, so the movement pattern will also be trained.

Finally, strength issues can be a limiting factor for movement. In a previous post I discussed aspects of strength in a more general sense. Here is where the concept of strength has to be addressed to provide a stable, controlled system to allow movement to occur. Midline, or “core,” strength provides the foundation for us to move from. The stronger our midline, the stronger the rest of the body can be. Remember, we need proximal stability for distal mobility. From there it is also important that the individual joint systems have ample strength to control and support the desired movement. This can also have an impact on remote areas. For example, hip weakness can lead to faulty movement patterns of the knee and possibly pain. Our body moves based upon a series of stable and mobile parts and if one area is dysfunctional this can impact a remote site.

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