The Importance of Functional Movement

Doing what you love, without pain.

The Information We Receive, Dictates The Way We Move

Imagine walking from one end of your home to the other—in daylight, then, in total darkness. With light, walking would be an easy task, but in pitch black you’re likely to move with more caution and hesitation to avoid bashing your knee on a piece of furniture.  Can you see how a change in the amount of information your brain receives can influence the way you move?

Another factor that can influence how you move is pain.  When a muscle is in pain, it’s ability to fire is inhibited (partially or completely depending on the level of pain).  What we think of as pushing through the pain, is actually the job being outsourced to different muscles. If a muscle is in pain, it will not do its job.  Your ‘will power’ is merely a guilt trip to make other muscles help.

For short term pain, this process normally works just fine.  Other muscles pick up the slack, so the injured muscle can heal.  But just like a spare tire, when the body uses this process as a long-term fix, alignment issues will inevitably pop up, and that’s just the beginning of a slippery slope.

The Big Picture

Going back to my original example, walking around your house in total darkness alters the way you move, and because of this inefficient way of walking—slightly crouched, hands outstretched, carefully placing your feet so you don’t step on anything—you’re going to tire more quickly. Inefficiency has a high energy cost for the body.

So, if pain is your darkness, your body will fatigue more rapidly.  Left untreated, this fatigue can cause your body to compensate (cheat to create movement) even more as you continue to ‘push through the pain’. 

What is your boiling point: a muscle spasm, muscle weakness, joints popping without you forcing them, deep joint pain, or joint blow-out?

How's Your Proprioception?

Simply put, proprioception is your body’s awareness of where all of it’s parts are without having to look (think hand-eye coordination). 

Here’s a clearing test I use as a baseline in assessing a client’s proprioceptive feedback.

First, I have them stand on one leg, and try to make it to 20 seconds. From there, I see how long they can stand on one leg with their eyes closed (taking out visual cues).  Finally, I see how long they can stand on one leg, eyes closed, with their head tilted backwards or to the side (this distorts the information from the ear canals).  

Then, I have them repeat all of those steps (eyes open, closed, head tilted) while standing, shoe-less, on a mat that looks like the underside of an egg carton.  How well does their body adapt to an abnormal surface?

The better someone’s proprioception (body to brain communication), the longer they’ll be able to stand without wobbling and sudden jerking motions to correct their stance.  There’s a correlation between this proprioceptive capabilities and efficient, functional movement.

This information is meant to be educational, and should not replace any guidelines you’ve been given, in reference to your health, by your primary health care team.