Movement Is Life
How well we move may determine how long we live. A Brazilian study published in the European Journal of Cardiology found that our ability to rise from a seated position on the floor was a strong indicator of our longevity. Those who had difficulty standing unassisted and had to use more than one limb for support were twice as likely to die within the six year study period. The inability to perform this simple test may be due to an old injury, spinal degeneration, muscular imbalance, or any number of factors. Fortunately, once identified these dysfunctional movement patterns can be addressed to restore proper function to the body and prevent future injury.
The key to addressing movement dysfunction is evaluating and correcting your body’s fascia. Fascia is a webbed network of connective tissue that is woven throughout the body and links all tissues. Our muscles, bones and organs don’t act independently; rather they are united by the fascia that is wrapped through and around them. The fascia in our feet connects to the top of our head in one of twelve distinct pathways called Anatomy Trains identified by body worker Thomas Myers. If the fascia is disorganized then muscles will stick together and create dysfunctional movement. Fascia is also a rich sensory organ full of nervous system receptors (mechanoreceptors) that further influences movement. We can effectively rewire faulty movement patterns by reorganizing fascia using simple tools like the foam roller, mobility balls (lacrosse ball and softball), exercise band, and kinesiology tape (Rock Tape).
Foam rolling and the use of mobility balls is a form of self sports massage. This helps decrease muscle soreness, increase tactile acuity, relieve joint stress, and increase range of motion. Research shows that foam rolling increases nitric oxide (NO) production that in turn increases blood flow and aids in recovery. The foam roller stimulates receptors in the fascia and breaks up adhesions, allowing for greater ease of movement.
Start by rolling slowly over the tissue with light pressure and when a tender area is located, use quick back and forth movements for twenty seconds. Since all our muscles are connected, you want to address the tissue locations above and below the area of soreness. If you notice that you are holding your breath or grimacing, you are applying too much pressure and need to ease up. Some areas like the feet, low back, neck, and shoulders are best to address using mobility balls. You want to slowly lower yourself over the ball or against the wall, using your body weight to adjust the pressure. You should not spend any more than a minute on each body region.
An exercise band can be used effectively to mobilize and grind out adhesions in the joints. You can wrap the band around a heavy stationary object and the other end around your ankle or wrist. You can then slowly apply tension to the joint or grind it out using the pressure of the band. If you have a partner, he or she can serve as your anchor before you switch off. For hip mobility, you can step through the band, pulling it up as high as possible. Then gradually walk forward, increasing the tension and using your hands for stability. Again, spend twenty seconds using the band in various directions to address all areas of the joint, spending no more than a minute in each region.
Kinesiology tape (Rock Tape) can be used to reduce pain, remind the body of correct posture, and reinforce proper movement. This cotton/nylon tape applied to the skin creates a shearing effect on the skin to stimulate the neurological receptors within the fascia. This can aid in enhancing performance and improving movement.
While all these techniques can be used effectively in the short term, it is the skilled application of corrective exercise that will create a lasting result for the athlete. Once we unwind the fascia and stimulate the nervous system we must then strengthen the weak muscles and reinforce proper movement patterns through repetition. This will allow us to use our body more efficiently to perform at a higher level and experience more in our lives.
Dr. Mark Lewis is a Chiropractic Physician at HealthSource Chiropractic and Progressive Wellness. He uses a functional movement exam to identify musculoskeletal problems, which he treats using a combination of chiropractic, progressive rehab, and muscle work to restore proper movement.