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Your Mobility Sucks!


By Brent Tiesma | Tech CA

I want to expand on something Dr. Joel talked about at this month’s Move by Design seminar that I never get tired of learning about — Mobility vs. Stability.

The design of the body is phenomenal — Different joints provide range of motion while other parts restrict it, allowing you to move through space with great efficiency. Generally, a joint that needs mobility is sandwiched between joints that need stability and vise versa. You’re born with complete mobility and through the primal patterning of your nervous system those stable joints develop allowing you to go from a crawl, to your first steps to full out sprinting and jumping.

This amazing orchestration between components of mobility and stability provides optimal ranges of motion, and produces speed, balance and power. It is our natural state of extraordinary! But as time goes on, whether it’s through injury, trauma, poor life style choices or humanity’s worst enemy – the chair… Areas that are suppose to be mobile, get less so and areas that need to demonstrate stability are called upon to move more & more. This forces the body to do what the body does best – adapt. Adaptation is a usually a great short-term fix but over time dysfunctional movement become default and feel ‘normal’. This can all be done without pain or without you even being consciously aware of any change – well that is, until one day your back goes out putting on your socks, your knee implodes after buying a new pair of shoes or your family doctor recommends a specialist since you’re a perfect candidate for hip replacement surgery.

Look no further than our recent article on ‘text neck’ for the body’s ingenuous ability to adapt. With enough texting, the head no longer sits in an optimal position above the shoulders which begins to put a strain on the muscle in the back, decreases the mobility of the thoracic spine and even compresses the rib cage lessening the depth of our breathing. The body attempts to offset this heavy burden by making the thoracic region more stable (you don’t want this) and laying down fatty deposits also called the Dowager’s Hump at the base of the neck (you don’t want this either). With these changes you’ve lost a huge amount of motion, thrown off your entire mobility/ stability system and created a health scenario that may never be fully reversible. Can you imagine how those physiological changes could impact your quality of life and your ability to move? Now, imagine that you’re just 14. Yikes.

When I think back to my own shoulder injury a number of years ago, I ended up not training for over a year as I couldn’t hold a barbell behind my neck without searing pain through my shoulder that wanted to make me pass out. I was grumpy, irritable and in a major funk. Especially after I saw a physiotherapist who gave me various shoulder exercises that produced little to no change. When I asked what I should do next, she said that maybe there were some movements that I may not be able to do anymore — That was the last day she was my physiotherapist. So, I decided to take part in something I could do — a squat challenge. For 60 days, I collected up to 30 minutes throughout the day in a 3rd world squat position. The crazy thing was by a month in, my shoulder started to feel better. I hadn’t changed anything in my daily routine and over a year had passed since I hurt myself but something was changing. But by the end of day 60, I was back in the gym squatting with weights. How? Without knowing it, I was addressing my mobility and stability issues. By squatting, I was restoring mobility to my thoracic spine and hips and stability to my scapula. My experience really opened my eyes to how complex the body is and how when we compartmentalize pain and focus on its source, it’s often going to be a fruitless endeavor. Dr. Kelly Starrett points out that you can trace pain either upstream or downstream from its source. For instance, if you have knee pain, there’s a good chance you can find its origin in tight ankles or tight hips. Thus, a lack of mobility in the ankles or hips could be forcing the knee to over-compensate (to be more mobile and less stable) and that’s causing the pain or inflammation to occur. Often by addressing the lack of mobility in the area above and/or below will help the problematic joint clear up. In terms of keeping the human body running optimally – Movement is king!

“When you move well, your body will inherently take care of what needs to be mobile and stable.” – Cassie Dionne

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