Joint mobility is a curious thing.
Not enough mobility in a specific joint creates a kinetic “chain reaction” which increases the mobilization requirement of another joint, usually directly above or below the immobile joint.
Take hip mobility, for example. When the hips get stiff and immobile, whether from injury, overuse or a massive dose of ass-sitting, they simply cannot do their job as it relates to walking, running, lunging, squatting and a bunch of other movements required by sports, training and even life.
Think about it. With a lack of hip mobility, how do you effectively get on and off the toilet? But I digress…
A limitation or lack of mobility in the hips will mean that mobility must be “made up” somewhere else. While it is possible to see that occur further away in the kinetic chain, the most likely places to see increased mobilization demand in the case of immobile hips is the knees or low back. It doesn’t take an expert in kinesiology to know that the knees and low back are NOT designed for significant levels of mobility. Both are designed with significant stabilization systems designed to limit mobility and prevent injury therein.
So, to nutshell this, reduced hip mobility increases the need for mobility in either the knees or low back (sometimes both,) thereby significantly increasing the risk of injury in both places. Limited mobility, then, leads to kinetic chain dysfunction.
But what caused the lack of mobility in the hips in the first place? Good question!
The answer? Like so many other fitness and wellness-related questions, the answer is “it depends.”
Certainly, injuries, both current and in the past, can lead to mobility loss. Many people have jobs that require them to sit for extended periods of time. Even our schools contribute to this problem. Most schools would have children sit for 4-6 hours a day, with minimal (if any) recess breaks to move and exercise.
Injuries and ADL’s (activities of daily living – or maybe they should be called inactivities of daily living) can both contribute to immobility issues. Hips, thoracic spines and gleno-humeral joints get stiff and prevent normal kinetic chain function. This leads to increased mobility requirements in joints designed for stability and…
Well, I think you can see the circular relationship here.
The answer? Maintain healthy levels of mobility in joints that are designed for it. The ankles, hips, thoracic spine and gleno-humeral joint all need some attention in order to ensure healthy levels of mobility and prevent excess mobility load on the knees, lumbar spine and scapula.
Don’t let your (lack of) mobility steal your stability…