Flexibility is the key for Pain-free Life
Today, nearly everyone is affected by postural imbalances largely as the result of sedentary lifestyles, advancements in technology, and repetitive movements.
Office jobs that require individuals to sit for long hours have led to dramatic increases in work-related injuries, including low-back and neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as increased rates of obesity.
Human body is designed such that like any moving machine it’s component functions in sync with each other following the known mechanical principles like pull, push, balance, pulley, angles, torque etc.
Flexibility training has become increasingly recognized as an important way to help aid in preventing and treating various neuromuscular injuries.
Person without adequate levels of flexibility and joint motion may be at increased risk of injury, and may not be able to achieve his physical and functional goals until these deficits are corrected
Flexibility can be simply described as the ability to move a joint through its complete range of motion.
There are various factors that can influence flexibility, including:
Genetics, Connective tissue elasticity, Composition of tendons or skin surrounding the joint, Joint structure, Strength of opposing muscle groups, Body composition, Sex, Age, Activity level, Previous injuries or existing medical issues, Repetitive movements.
DANGERS OF REDUCED FLEXIBILITY
The human movement system (HMS), comprises the muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems. Like any machine optimal alignment and function of each component of the HMS is the cornerstone of a body movement. If one or more segments of the HMS are misaligned and not functioning properly, predictable patterns of dysfunction develop.
These patterns of dysfunction are referred to as Postural distortion patterns
(Muscle imbalance > Poor posture > Improper movement > Injury)
Muscular imbalances are highly prevalent in today’s society and are often times caused by pattern overload. Pattern overload is consistently repeating the same pattern of motion, for example, a loading-dock employee who has a particularly repetitive occupation lifting and loading packages all day is prone to pattern overload. Even sitting for long periods of time while working on a computer is a repetitive stress. There are gym members who train with the same routine repetitively. This too may lead to pattern overload and place abnormal stresses on the body.
CUMULATIVE INJURY CYCLE
Poor posture and repetitive movements create dysfunction within the connective tissue of the body. This dysfunction is treated by the body as an injury, and as a result, the body will initiate a repair process termed the cumulative injury cycle.
Any trauma to the tissue of the body creates inflammation.
Inflammation, in turn, activates the body’s pain receptors and initiates a protective mechanism, increasing muscle tension or causing muscle spasm and as a result of the spasm, adhesions (or knots) begin to form in the soft tissue.
Soft tissue rebuilds itself in a random fashion with an inelastic collagen matrix that usually does not run in the same direction as the muscle fibers. If the muscle fibers are lengthened, these inelastic connective tissue fibers act as roadblocks, creating alterations in normal tissue extensibility and causing relative flexibility or altered movement pattern. Which leads to pain, tightness, weakness lack of movement and reduced efficiency.
Left untreated, these adhesions can begin to form permanent structural changes in the soft tissue.
Unfortunately flexibility training is most ignored part of training.
The ideal way is to consult your physical therapist who will carry out a thorough physical assessment and identify the muscular imbalance to design the flexibility training based on individual goals. Moreover, it is important to note that flexibility techniques should only be performed on tissues that have been identified as overactive (tight) during the assessment process.
Flexibility, like any other form of training, should follow a systematic progression known as the Flexibility continuum.
Each form of stretching creates different types of effects on the neuromuscular system. When choosing the types of stretching (and protocols) a physical therapist will base exercise selection on physical evaluations, goals, and also when the stretching activities will take place.
There are three phases of flexibility training: corrective, active, and functional -
Corrective Flexibility: This phase is designed to correct common postural dysfunctions, muscle imbalances, and joint dysfunction. It includes: Self Myofascial Release (SMR) and static stretching (and neuromuscular stretching if trained in technique).
Active Flexibility: This phase is designed to improve tissue extensibility. It includes Self Myofascial Release (SMR) and active-isolated stretching (and neuromuscular stretching if trained in technique).
Functional Flexibility: This phase is designed to improve multi-planar soft tissue extensibility and optimum neuromuscular control through a full range of motion. This includes Self Myofascial Release (SMR) and dynamic stretching.
The benefits of flexibility training include improving muscle imbalances, increasing joint range of motion and muscle extensibility, relieving excessive tension of muscles and joint stress, improving neuromuscular efficiency and function.
So before you start your training program to avoid injuries and enhance your performance do consult your physical therapist get yourself assessed, design training program customize to your condition and goal for the longevity of your physical fitness.