by Dr. Matt McGowan D.C.
Mobility w/o Stability = Injury
This is a very important equation to keep in mind when designing your training regimen or when trying to rehab from a musculoskeletal injury. I have found this to be extremely true in my years in practice and I would like to take a moment to dive into this equation a bit more so that it is more easily understood and hopefully applied.
Let’s take a second to define some terms:
Flexibility: Refers to the ability of a joint to PASSIVELY move through range of motion. Passive means that someone else can take that joint and move it from point A to point B.
Mobility: Is your ability to ACTIVELY move that same joint through range of motion.
It is easy to think that the two are one and the same, but they are not. Flexibility and Mobility do not always match up for two major reasons:
- The first is strength imbalance. This is when an individual does not possess the strength to move the limb or structure through full range of motion. A great example would be someone who cannot squat very deeply and they feel like they just can’t get past a certain point. In some scenarios, they are so unstable through their hip joints and core that the brain senses this and “red lights” the movement using other muscles to tighten and stop the movement. If this individual can strengthen and stabilize some of those less stable areas, they will often gain much better mobility without having to do a single stretch.
- The second is stability. Are the supporting structures around the joint or muscle in question stable enough to allow this joint to move freely? This second principle is often overlooked in training and rehab for musculoskeletal injuries. I’ve seen this in a lot of different sports and “daily living” injuries, but most frequently I’ve come across this problem in Yoga injuries. Yoga is wonderful for improving one’s flexibility and mobility, but I often see individuals who have reached a high level in the practice yet lacking stability in some of those positions. It is extremely frustrating to them when they come into the office and they just don’t understand how their muscles get injured when they are so loose and bendy.
How can you improve your stability?
One of the best ways is through Isometric holds. This means that you place the unstable joint in a compromised position under mild to moderate load and you hold it there. Very similar to how a person would try to train balance by standing on a single leg and holding for time. Some great ways to challenge core and upper limb stability are with weighted carry exercises (i.e. Farmer’s carry, Waiter’s carry, Overhead Carry). For the core and lumbar spine, there are various Isometric exercises specifically for the deepest layer of the core called the Transverse Abdominis.
If you think you may be in a similar position and unsure of where to start or what to do, please reach out to us. We would be happy to help you get to the root of the issue and set you up with the correct exercises.