Staying Put.

Last week, we talked about the relationship between static and dynamic stretching. Each is important and each has a different purpose within the context of a well-rounded program.

This week, we bring in the third piece to the puzzle: stability. Not only do our bodies need to be able to move well through full ranges of motion, but they need to be able to maintain positions, despite an outside disturbance.

Stability “is defined as: the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position. Stability is achieved by the coordinating actions of surrounding tissues and the neuromuscular system.” The body is an interconnected series of joints, each with varying degrees of stability and mobility. Below is a diagram of the joints and their associated need for either mobility or stability.

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The “every-other” relationship between mobility and stability in the body play a major factor in how we move.

Let’s talk about a very real-life example of this relationship for most people: low back pain. Here’s a few surprising facts about low back pain from the American Chiropractic Association:

  • Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, [it’s] the second most common reason for doctor’s visits.
  • Half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
  • Most cases are mechanical or non-organic; this means they aren’t caused by serious conditions.
  • Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain.

For pain that is relatively easily identified, and potentially an easily prevented, those numbers are staggering. One cause of back pain is the lack of mobility within the hips and spine. Think back to our diagram. Low back pain occurs in the lumbar spine region of the back. This should be a stable area. The major joints on either side, the t-spine and hips, should be more mobile in comparison.

However, the hips and t-spine are often tight and don’t move with the mobility they should. One major cause is sitting with poor posture! Many of us sit for long periods of time. Our hips are flexed forward, causing short hip flexors and tight hip musculature overall. Our shoulders often are kyphotic, or rounded forward, causing a tight upper back, or t-spine region.

Due to the tightness of these two joints, the lumbar spine compensates, becoming more mobile. This can cause pain or discomfort associated with the infamous “low back pain”. It’s important to note this isn’t the only cause and I’m not treating or diagnosing. However, this is quite common among many of my clients and those who sit for long periods of time throughout the day.

The bottom line: It’s not all about mobility, nor is it all about stability. We have to work toward a balance of both. Some joints mobile, some stable throughout exercise and daily life.

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