As we began discussing in our previous mobility articles the modern lifestyle lends itself to some very commonly occurring areas of dysfunction. Long hours working in front of a computer, driving a car, or playing on cell phones and tablets begin to trigger the same issues in a wide range of the population.
One of the most common faults are tight hamstrings coupled with weak glutes. In this case the body is built with multiple muscles working together to accomplish a common goal. To create hip extension, necessary to walk, run, stand or squat, the body uses the low back muscles, glutes, hamstrings and calves in a sequence. If the “strongest” muscles of the sequence are unable to perform their job other muscles will pick up the slack. The above example of weak glutes illustrates how the hamstring muscles compensate for the job of the dysfunctional muscle group. In this case we recognize the hamstring isn’t actually “tight” but is in reality performing its own function, as well as, that of the glute essentially overworking the muscle. Stretching the hamstring will alleviate a portion of the symptom but not solve the problem.
Another common fault seen in a majority of the population today, including the athlete, are overactive pectoral and anterior deltoid muscles coupled with weakened rear deltoid and upper back muscles. The appearance is that the shoulders are rolled forward and the head is translated anteriorly, essentially taking on hunched appearance frequently causing trap and neck pain, and possibly headaches. This is seen in everyday task such as remaining in seated position at a computer, how one drives a car, or sitting on a couch to watch TV. The common assumption on how to correct this problem is to simply stretch the pectorals and anterior deltoid muscles. However, as explained above this will only temporarily alleviate some of the discomfort or pain associated with the area of dysfunction.
As we discussed above, one muscle firing incorrectly creates a domino effect. A weakened glute can cause the hamstring to overload its contribution, leading to tightness and spasms. Eventually this can lead to lower back pain which is a predominate reason people stop working out! By extension, if you stop working out, the domino effect continues and additional muscles will weaken and cause further dysfunction.
So, what should you do now? The answer is simple: get screened. Get evaluated by a healthcare professional who has specialized training and certification in functional movement. This professional should have the knowledge to recognize and diagnose the underlying problems leading to these and other dysfunctional patterns. Treatment should solely focus on alleviating the symptoms but correcting the cause.
Recognize that just as it takes time to gain strength and endurance to perform these movements, it may require even more time to get back to a proper, fundamental, functional ways of moving. Most dysfunctional movement patterns have developed over a lengthy period. Just as there is a process of becoming dysfunctional, there is a process to restore functional movement. Give this process the time and work needed, and you can correct these problems and improve your overall ability to move properly and stay injury free!