Most people know that proper mobility is essential to a long and pain-free life, but not many people know why they need it or how to get it safely. We’ll be going over what mobility is, why you lose it in certain areas, and how to get those areas functioning better quickly!
What is Mobility?
Mobility is more than just being “flexible,” it is about getting proper motion in the proper areas. We all know the gymnast who can do a complete backbend and nearly touch the ground with their shoulders, but I would argue that this isn’t proper mobility. Sure, they are flexible, but odds are that they are taking A LOT of motion from just a COUPLE joints and very little from the rest. These few joints that are taking the majority of the motion are doing WAY too much, and will eventually begin to breakdown and cause pain. Proper mobility means sharing motion evenly across the entire system. So for this gymnast, each joint should evenly provide a little bit of motion to produce the ultimate movement. This is the most safe and effective way to produce movement, and thus, proper mobility.
Why Does My Mobility Suck?
If you’ve ever tried to stretch some of your muscles before or after a workout, you’ve probably noticed that your range of motion in certain stretches isn’t as good as other stretches. Usually with this we also see that the more you stretch these areas, the more painful the area gets. You lose mobility for a couple different reasons, but the most common reasons are that you either have a stability issue somewhere requiring compensation or that you have fascial adhesions.
Stability Issues: One of the most common areas we treat for mobility issues is the shoulder. People often report tight upper back and neck muscles, decreased range of motion in the neck and the shoulder on a fairly regular basis. When we look at the shoulder mobility, often times it is poor even though the patient has been stretching the shoulder for weeks. Shouldn’t the stretching help? Nope. This is simply because all it is going to do is treat the symptoms (tightness, stiffness, pain) and not the CAUSE. When we have shoulder instability, the body responds by trying to create stability as best as it can. Unfortunately, the muscles it calls upon are the large and strong muscles (such as the upper traps, pecs and lats). These muscles are so big that they overdo it and begin to cause compression of the shoulder, leading to the decreased range of motion. These muscles stay tight because the body can’t figure out any other way to keep the shoulder stable otherwise. No amount of stretching will ever fix something like this, the only thing you can do to fix mobility is to fix the stability with proper rehabilitation.
Fascial Adhesions: When this process of muscle compensation for instability runs for too long, the body responds by increasing the production of fascia. Fascia is a type of tissue that covers our entire body, sitting on and in between muscles, and performs a support function for the body. When the muscles are tight for too long, the body tries to support these areas by putting down more and more fascia. Unfortunately, this build up of fascia can cause issues by itself. It can keep the range of motion decreased (even after you rehabilitate the compensatory muscles) and it has a lot of nerves in it that can cause it to be very painful.
How Can I Fix It?
If you have any tight muscles or decreased range of motion, it is essential that you begin a proper rehabilitation program. Most of the rehabilitation that we perform is through the Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) system. By utilizing developmental kinesiology (how humans develop movement from birth), we are able to get you moving in ways that the body knows how to use. DNS helps us get your brain involved in the rehabilitation by tapping into fundamental movements that are pre-programmed into our bodies from infancy. The effects of this treatment are often times quick and long-lasting.
The best option we have for fascial adhesions is through a process called “tissue remodeling.” This means, we need to physically break-up and stress the tissue so that the body can replace it with tissue that is more elastic and appropriate for movement. This can be performed by using a FOAM ROLLER or LACROSSE BALL on the area that is tight. Unfortunately, this process can take a long time and you will have to continually stress and remodel the tissue for a minimum of six weeks. It is definitely worth it though because once the tissue has been remodeled, you won’t have to worry about it for a long time!
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