What is the ‘Joint-by-Joint’ approach? It’s a term coined by movement experts Michael Boyle and Gray Cook when referring to our joints and their ability to maintain “stability” or have “mobility”. In other words depending on the joint you should either be able to keep a position or change position at will. If you can’t then you are suffering from “movement dysfunction”.
Which joints should be mobile? Ankles, hips, thoracic spine, wrists, shoulders, and neck.
Which joints should be stabile? Knees, lumbar spine, elbows, scapular, and cervical spine.
Why does movement dysfunction matter? Because it leads to pain and decreased performance (if you’re an athlete). If a joint that’s meant to be mobile becomes too stable (or a stable joint becoming too mobile) then that leads to movement compensations. Compensations lead to pain. The key point to remember is that what happens to one joint will have repercussions on another joint(s). If you notice the graph below each joint alternates with it’s responsibilities going up and down the body. For example, our ankles are meant to be mobile while our knees are meant to be stable. Let’s say you have knee pain, it could be due to immobile hips, ankles, or both. By fixing your hip or ankles range of motion you could reduce your knee pain.
Does movement dysfunction only go up and down? Not always. Our body is a very complex system that requires symmetry to operate efficiently. If you carry your suitcase or backpack on one side of your body all the time then not only is your other side getting weaker but you muscle and bone alignment could be thrown off and you wouldn’t know until you pull a muscle or develop chronic pain. You won’t know why and that’s because it takes a long time before the compensation will cause pain.
How do I fix/prevent movement dysfunction? Keep moving! Seriously, it’s that easy. Unfortunately, our lifestyles of sitting in the car to work, sitting at work, sitting in the car coming home, sitting on the couch when we get home, and lack of exercise lead to our movement dysfunctions and joint pain. Yes, there are exercises and physical therapy drills that can help but the truth is to prevent movement pain is to move as often as you can and in multiple plains of motion (forward/backward, side-to-side, and rotational). If you want to get specific I would suggest having a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) practitioner evaluate your movements patterns. They will pinpoint the most problematic issues and apply corrective exercises to improve those patterns and reduce joint pain. It can be a process that takes several months or years but it’s worth it.
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