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Functional Movement and Pain


I recently attended a seminar focusing on assessing functional movement patterns in people. These patterns are normal motions that one should be able to achieve without pain, imbalances , or insufficiencies . However, when we looked at each other (all within the medical field) it was shocking to find so many dysfunctional movements or pain with movements that shouldn’t cause pain. The next thing we discussed was looking at the patterns that were not painful but were dysfunctional, meaning the pattern was performed by an individual in a manner that was asymmetrical, unbalanced, limited, or hard to accomplish, instead of the painful patterns.

Fascial Planes

You might think, “Why examine the motions that aren’t great looking but not painful, you should be looking at the pain!” There are several reasons for this. Firstof all, everything in the body is connected. There is a tissue called FASCIA that covers the muscles and goes throughout the body in different directions connecting you all together. For example, the toes are connected to the eyebrows by fascia thatruns from your toes, up your calf, thigh, back, neck and over the top of your head. So, dysfunctional movement in the foot could cause a problem in your back or your neck. Second, pain changes the way we move. If turning to the right in your neck hurts, then you will adapt and start to turn part of your torso to achieve the full motion your neck desires. Pain also changes your muscle activate. Sometimes it will increase a muscle’s activation and sometimes it will decrease the activation.

Because of the interconnection of the body and your altered motions due to pain it’s important to 1) treat the pain and 2) fix the dysfunctional movements that could be the actual cause of that pain. Let’s say that you cannot squat in the ideal motion (which, let’s face it, most of us adults cannot) then all those times your go from a standing to sitting position throughout the day, eating food at the kitchen table, getting in and out of your car, sitting at your desk at work, going to the bathroom, and picking something up off the floor, you are using altered motions and compensations to achieve your desired motion. This places extra stress on the wrong joints and muscles. This extra stress may be fine for a while, but then one day something goes wrong and you get pain. So is the culprit your pain? Or is it the fact that the way you’ve been moving in an abnormal/inefficient way for the last 5 years? Just because you aren’t in pain or are no longer experiencing pain doesn’t mean that your body is functioning at 100%. You most likely have adapted to your inefficiencies and have “made do” to get you through your daily activities.

So you want to get back to your workout routine? Should you exercise through the pain? Well, like I said earlier, pain alters the way you move. When an injured athlete continues activity he/she applies stress to a compromised structure. This exacerbates the imbalances already present and could set you up for further or continued injury. But what if the pain goes away, should you stop treatment and continue your workout? Let’s think about this scenario this way. If your movement patterns are not optimal it’s like having one flat tire on your car. If you are driving back and forth to work 5 miles that flat tire might not be that big of a deal. However, if you are a NASCAR driver that one flat tire could cause a major accident. So if your movement patterns are “off” and you want to increase your performance or lower your time for a race then those dysfunctions could become a huge hindrance or problem for you.

Movement is the key to life and proper functional movement is essential to achieving your goals.

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