From the day you are born you start developing movement patterns to allow yourself to do the things you want to do. One of your biggest movement achievements of your life is to go from crawling to walking. You probably can’t remember but this doesn’t happen straight away, there will be many failed attempts until you succeed. If you can walk upright then give yourself a pat on the back!
The above process stimulates the ‘motor control centre‘ in the cerebellum of our brain to learn the patterns required to create the movement. With each attempt, the motor pattern is formed, until the movement is successfully performed and stored in the motor control centre for later use.
Movement patterns can become “dysfunctional” or disrupted due to chronic or acute injuries, bad habits, and lack of movement. If the dysfunctional movement is repeated over and over again then this pattern will be stored and, in many cases, this will lead to further problems.
A Dysfunctional Movement Example
We’ve all fallen over at some point in our lives and sometimes this can lead to a shoulder injury. You reach out as you topple towards the ground and, when your hand hits the floor, the force goes through your shoulder. It’s sore and painful to start with but you carry on as normal, continuing to lift up your kids or struggle with heavy bags from the supermarket.
Over the next few weeks it gets worse, until you start struggling to lift your arm up. This may have happened because the rotator cuff muscles that stabilise the shoulder have become weak due to the injury. Other muscles, such as the triceps (back of the arm) or wrist extensors (associated with tennis elbow), have started to compensate. This has become a dysfunctional movement pattern which will continue or perhaps get worse unless it is corrected.
Movements patterns can also become dysfunctional if you don’t move enough (and even if you are an “Active Couch Potato“). For example, sitting for the majority of the day will put the hip flexor muscles in a shortened position, and the hip extensor muscles into a lengthened position. Over time, the muscles will get locked in these positions and become weak, which will result in an unstable core when upright and moving around.
Other muscles in the lower back and legs have to work harder to stabilise the body. In general they’re not designed to do these movements so get over-used and injured. Until the movement pattern is corrected they will not be able to heal and will probably cause some pain.
Movement Pattern Assessments
At Optimal Movement we do a thorough assessment of your movement patterns to identify any dysfunctions. Specific muscles and actions will be checked to make sure they are activated and firing effectively.
Dysfunctional movement patterns are identified and subsequently treated to help break the cycle and correct the movement at your ‘motor control centre’.
Much of the treatment we utilise is focused on optimising your movement patterns. It not only helps when you’re recovering from injury, but can also minimise the risks of getting injured. What’s more, when movement patterns are optimised, we often see a dramatic increase in performance. This may be a performance in your sport or simply in your daily life.
Move more and move better in 2018!