Movement is life. For your spine, movement is essential for health. Joint surfaces don’t have blood supply so they get their supplies from the fluid in the joints, which need movement to circulate. Movement is also exercise for this
sub-system in your body. It keeps things strong by challenging them to move and work. Even a week or two without motion will start to degenerate joint cartilage.
Breaking Down Movement
It is helpful to break down movement to understand why a movement problem can exist even with normal overall flexibility and motion.
Segmental mobility is movement at a single joint and is important just like overall movement. When lost, it may not be noticeable right away. Loss of segmental mobility might not hurt, but it is definitely not healthy. It is important to realize that poor single joint mobility typically doesn’t improve with overall mobility exercise like stretching or yoga.
This is the sum of all the segmental mobility. An example is touching your toes. Most of the time you will notice loss of overall mobility IF you regularly move through full ranges. Overall mobility can improve with things like exercise, stretching and yoga. Even when overall mobility gets better, there can still be stuck single joints. The problem with a stuck joint is that it will force other areas to move more to compensate. If one spot is stuck, the spots around it move more to make up for the stuck spot. This results in overall okay motion (if there are enough places to make up for the stuck spot), but it is not a healthy situation.
Restoring Single Joint Motion
Restoring single joint motion is an area where Chiropractic excels. Restoring a specific joint movement, or even just a specific part of joint movement, is very difficult to do yourself. It is also not likely to improve with things that are excellent at restoring overall movement like stretching, exercise or yoga. Other practitioners like some Physical Therapists and Osteopaths are also trained to do joint manipulation. You can read about some of the differences here.
These joint movement problems can develop from injuries (slips, falls, contact sports), but probably even more common is their development from not moving enough, if at all. Sitting for long periods in school, or at work, sitting in the car, lack of exercise, etc. can all cause problems. We live in a stressful world now and any kind of stress can lead to breakdown in movement at single joints.
You can also be someone who exercises and moves a lot, but has some single joints that do not move properly. This may not be noticeable from a pain standpoint until the latter stages of a problem. Just like many other conditions, pain free does not equal healthy. Painful probably does equal unhealthy.
Movement, with full single joint motion, is a foundation for maintaining proper health and function over a lifetime as well as performing at your peak in sports.
Proper movement needs to be controlled by proper strength and stability. We will cover more on that in our next post, Low Back Pain III: Building a Strong and Stable Spine.