Every day countless people embark on their journey to improved physical health, whether they are setting a New Year’s resolution, overcoming an injury, or improving their performance in sports or life. While each person's story is unique, there are some common threads therapists identify that are key to a patient's success. The first we will discuss is mobility – what it is and the role it plays in your health.
Mobility as a Foundation for Function
Mobility refers to the ability of our joints, muscles, and other body parts to move freely through their full range of motion, allowing us to bend, twist, reach, and stretch without discomfort or restriction. When we lack mobility, our body will still find a way to get the job done, but often through compensation and ‘cheats’, and our overall ability to function – be that as an athlete, weekend warrior, mom or dad - is compromised.
"As we move less, our joints and muscles ‘do as they are told’ and follow suit, getting slightly stiffer, making movement uncomfortable. This discomfort, in turn, discourages us from moving more, perpetuating the cycle." - Dr. Erica Manchester
Mobility & Ease vs Pain & Stiffness
Many of us spend long hours in sedentary positions—whether at a desk, in front of a screen, or behind the wheel. This sedentary lifestyle can lead to a gradual loss of mobility. Dr. Erica Manchester described it in this way, “As we move less, our joints and muscles ‘do as they are told’ and follow suit, getting slightly stiffer, making movement uncomfortable. This discomfort, in turn, discourages us from moving more, perpetuating the cycle.”
One of the most significant benefits of prioritizing mobility is the potential for pain reduction. Whether you're recovering from an injury or dealing with chronic pain, restoring proper movement patterns can alleviate stress on affected areas and promote healing. It’s not uncommon to go from wincing with each step to regaining a spring in your stride through targeted mobility exercises, even before adding in more rigorous strengthening exercises. But mobility isn't just for those rehabilitating injuries. Athletes, both amateur and professional, can enhance their performance by incorporating mobility exercises into their routines. Improved flexibility, joint stability, and range of motion can enhance agility, reduce the risk of injuries, and elevate overall performance.
Beyond the physical benefits, prioritizing mobility can foster a mind-body connection. Doctor EricaManchester reminds us, “many practices emphasize the connection between movement, breathing and the mind, such as Yoga and Tai Chi. The mindfulness required for deliberate, controlled movements can translate into heightened body awareness, or better ‘kinesthesia’ resulting in better balance and coordination.” This awareness As we become more attuned to our bodies, we are better equipped to address potential issues before they escalate.
Incorporating Mobility into Daily Life
The good news is that enhancing mobility doesn't require a complete lifestyle overhaul. Simple, consistent practices like stretching, yoga, and targeted exercises can make a world of difference. Working with a knowledgeable physical therapist can provide personalized guidance, ensuring that your mobility routine addresses your unique needs and goals.
Whether you're recovering from an injury, aiming to enhance athletic performance, or simply seeking to move through life with greater ease, prioritizing mobility is a wise investment in your well-being. So, let's unlock the full potential of our bodies, embrace the joy of movement, and savor the freedom that comes with optimal mobility. Your body will thank you for it.