Integration of flexibility, mobility and stability (column)
Better Version of You
If you’re relatively active, you’ve likely had an acute injury at some point in your life.
Although the severity of injuries vastly differ, the associated pain often refers to a specific joint or bone. It is important to note, however, that all bones, joints, tendons, muscles and connective tissue work in conjunction with one another to execute healthy movement patterns. In addition, most injuries are usually attributed to a lack of mobility, stability or flexibility (used interchangeably) without a firm understanding of what each term actually means. Damaging one area of the body carries repercussions to the surrounding areas and can even affect gross movement patterns.
Where to start?
In order to understand how the body is affected when one joint is injured in relation to another, the terms flexibility, mobility and stability must be understood first. Flexibility can be thought of as the absolute range of motion in a joint or group of joints as well as the length of muscle crossing that area. Next is mobility, which is most commonly confused with flexibility, although there is a clear delineation between the two. Joint mobility refers to an articulation (area where two bones meet) and the degree to which movement occurs without restriction. These restrictions can include muscles, ligaments, tendons and other surrounding tissues. Mobility denotes the ability move well with coordination and a lack of restriction, whereas flexibility does not represent one’s ability to move with strength, coordination and balance. Last is stability, which represents the ability to maintain control of joint movement or positioning. Surrounding tissues of a joint and the neuromuscular system work together to create stability.
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Once you’ve got a firm grasp on these definitions, it becomes relatively easy to understand how flexibility, mobility and stability work together. Gray Cook, founder of Functional Movement Systems, has what he calls “The Joint by Joint Approach.” This phenomenon is simply a table displaying an anatomical skeleton with each joint circled, then labeled, including their function. The best part is there is only two labels, mobility and stability. The ankle, hip and thoracic spine represent mobility whereas the knee, lumbar spine and cervical spine represent stability. Obviously, there are more joints in the body such as the elbow and wrist, but what Cook is demonstrating is that from head to toe the body alternates between the need for stability and mobility.
Not only does this again demonstrate how one area of the body affects another, it also explains why. Take for example a common injury such as rolling the ankle. This mobile joint quickly become immobile, putting a massive amount of stress on the knee and making what is normally stable rather instable. If the ankle is treated and allowed to heal, it should be relatively easy to return to activity, right? On the contrary, and this is again where most individuals fail in thinking that fixing the broken part will solve the problem. In the case of rolling the ankle, the knee must be carefully tended to as well as the hip because it quickly becomes immobilized if no weight is being placed on the ankle. The gait in which the person was running or walking before they rolled their ankle simply does not return to normal if all joints are not taken care of. This is similar to never brushing your teeth and wondering why you have cavities; the body takes a great deal of care at all joints.
In summary, the human body is a unit that requires all of its moving pieces to function properly in order to operate. This article provides an elementary understanding of what is known as the kinetic chain. Thank for reading and have a great week.
Jimmy Pritchard has a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Colorado Mesa University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the director of strength and conditioning at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Contact him at 970-331-3513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.