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  • Writer's pictureShyla Mesch

Importance of Corrective Exercise & Movement

Why movement and stability work are often the answer to your pain rather than more massage and stretching

Maximum Impact Physical Therapy • May 29, 2022 • 5 min read


Corrective Exercise For Pain Relief

Corrective exercises are different than typical strength exercises you might be doing at the gym. Aimed at correcting dysfunctional movements and postures that are causing you pain, corrective exercises improve deficits in the body’s kinetic chains. This blog post will shed some understanding to how your pain may be related to your movement and compensation patterns and how corrective exercise may be the solution you have been looking for and why massage or digging in with that lacrosse ball just isn’t hitting the mark.

It is important to know that a WEAK muscle equals a TIGHT muscle. If there is a group of muscles in your system that have forgotten their roll (which this can happen for a lot of reasons) or lost the ability to contract through their full range of motion, well that in turn means that the muscle looses length and will SHORTEN which is another way to make us feel TIGHT. A muscle may also SHORTEN because it is being overworked due to its opposing muscles being “underachievers” as well. Every aspect of the body has a job that HAS to be done! So if someone decides to quit… well there are always friends to do the job (this is called compensation). Over time, these compensatory patterns develop and are ingrained in our movement pathways - and this will happen even if pain is the outcome.

So massaging or smashing on the muscle can provide temporary relief until the body again realizes that it doesn’t know how to to move through the full length of that muscle so the nervous system then takes away that range to ensure that our body and joints stay safe.

But don’t loose hope!! This is where exercise comes into play. Strength innately provides stability and the muscle can then regain its range and function and overtime and it will stop being tight or overworked. This progression also allows for the muscle groups that have been overworked, due to the need for compensatory patterns, to also settle down and decrease their tone, tension and possible pain from being overused.

But wait, there is more… why would I tell you all of this without an explanation of what we should do!?!! Let’s talk a little more about how we look at the body and discover these deficiencies.

How do we Look at the Body?

There are some very well researched methods as to how to look at the body as a whole and find weak links. Based on the findings of Gray Cook, a highly respected orthopedic physical therapist and creator of the Function Movement Screen (FMS) and Skill Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA), a movement compensation is when a “weak energy link” in a movement pattern in one part of the body causes unnecessary work in another part of the body. This places added stress on certain muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments. Overtime, these extra stresses can lead to pain or injury. Having the ability to unveil these weak energy links lets us choose a very effective corrective exercise program and will target 3 main components of fundamental movement that build upon each other to create a solid foundation: mobility, stability (so that we can move through that mobility) and motor control (the ability to control your body to achieve full motion without pain or dysfunction).

Mobility Work :: Step 1

Mobility is the ability to move through our full available range ACTIVELY through muscle control (not static hold stretching). Mobility corrective work is often focused on improving tissue length and muscle flexibility, and often includes things such as dynamic stretching, massage, dry needling, cupping, foam rolling. We do this work when there is a decreased joint ROM and/or pain are identified within a specific movement pattern. For example, when you lift your arm above your head you must have adequate mobility within the joints and muscles in order to complete the full ROM. Limitations in mobility can be caused by tight and weak muscle imbalances, poor posture, previous injuries, incorrect biomechanics, and overuse of repetitive muscle actions. When mobility is compromised in one joint, out bodies just take a path of least resistance and drive that motion from somewhere else (compensation patterns) which can lead to pain and injury.

Joint Stability & Motor Control :: Step 2

Stability is the ability to maintain control of joint movement by COORDINATING the actions of surrounding tissues and the neuromuscular system. Mobility and stability should occur together naturally. In the same example of having adequate mobility to raise your arm over your head, you must also have adequate stability for your shoulder blade to anchor your shoulder to your body in order to hold it in a stable position so that the muscles of your arm can contract and complete the motion efficiently.

Motor control involves the basic timing and sequencing of movement/muscle contractions and includes mobility, balance, coordination, and muscle reflexiveness. Motor control has to ingrained in our systems through repetitive movements to train the Neuro system just like any “habit”, an automatic movement that happens over and over again creating a hard wired conditioned response. If poor movement habits are developed with a lack of stability, it will lead to pain and injury.

(If you’re still with me, I’m sure you’re seeing a pattern…. “Pain and injury” are a likely result if we move bad or don’t move at all!)

Movement Pattern Retraining :: Step 3

With the 3 fundamental components of movement (mobility, stability and motor-control) in place, the last step is to retrain movement patterns. But what is movement pattern retraining?

Movement pattern retraining blends the fundamental components of movement to train and optimize specific movement patterns.

Let’s look at the squat for a moment: seemingly a simple movement, but one that requires mobility through multiple joints, lots of stability and control through those joints and can be a pretty difficult movement pattern to master. Additional time and training is likely needed to retrain an individual on how to properly perform a squat, even after correcting any underlying movement compensations or dysfunctions that may have been present. This is what movement pattern retraining is all about – helping an individual to accomplish more complex movements after correcting underlying problems.

Without this final conditioning step, the new motor patterns would not become automatic enough to create a healthy habit of efficient movement. The unfortunate outcome of that, is they end up back in for more massage, more passive treatment, and no knowledge of how to bridge this gap. This repatterining and instruction is all part of a good corrective exercise program.

Corrective Exercise Bridges The Gap between Rehab and Fitness into the Life you want to Live

When it comes to pain, our bodies are intuitive and intelligent. Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. Think of it as the check engine light of the body. Often times we try to distract ourselves from the pain, ignore it completely, or try to find the quickest fix possible so we can move on with our lives.

Speaking from a holistic clinician view point, it is far too common that traditional physical therapy practitioners will focus on the pain symptoms instead of the cause. At Maximum Impact Physical Therapy we focus on the whole body so we can appropriately treat the causes of your pain instead of just the symptoms. We do this using our 3 step process:

  1. Relieve the pain so you can move

  2. Find and Fix the ROOT cause of the Pain

  3. Give you long term solutions so you can crush your goals and live your life!

Healthcare today is NOT what it should be, the focus is no longer on the patient, but rather on insurance and reimbursement. At Maximum Impact PT, you will always be the focus and priority! Your pain. Your health. Your goals. Your livelihood!

If you want to feel better, stronger, and more flexible or if pain or dysfunction is holding you back from participating in the things you love, we would love to help! Give us a call to come in for an initial assessment! You’ll wish you had done it sooner, so let’s get started today!

We do ask for planned phone calls so that you get our full attention and so we aren't interrupting care of a current patient/client.

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