Functional Therapy and Training
When you perform a physical activity and you don’t fully understand how the body is designed to move you may force the body to move in “your own” way and it can lead to less than optimal performance or to injury. On the other hand, the understanding of human anatomy and movement biomechanics will help you produce correct movements and avoid putting the body under undue stress.
Prior to signing up for functional the therapy and training most of my clients had long-standing conditions and injuries related to fibromyalgia back, knees, hip and spine pain. Physical therapy, conventional medical and chiropractic care would treat the area of pain and proved to be ineffective. Improper alignment and imbalances between the muscle groups outside the area of pain are not addressed. This means that conventional treatment methods are not approaching injuries from a functional point of view.
In addition, conventional injury treatments such as rest, ice, compression, elevation, heat, stretching and bracing may impede the healing. Often these “band-aid” approaches will trigger the body’s defense mechanism and engage other muscles to provide temporary relief, and create compensatory muscle actions.
Human movement is accomplished by integrated functioning of the nervous, skeletal and muscular systems. They form a functional movement chain for the joints and muscles to work in a coordinated manner. For instance, a knee problem is very often a result of poor functioning of pelvises, hip joints and gluteal muscles.
Kinesiology, the science of human movement, describes the mechanics of movement and links of the entire functional chain related to specific movements. Science-based functional therapy takes the injury treatment and prevention to the next level by assessing functional movement outside the area of pain.
Functional therapy and training brought relief to numerous individuals with injuries, they avoided surgeries and renewed their active style. Here’s an interview with person who was recommended by the doctors to perform 3 surgeries and cancelled all of them after 2 months of functional therapy and training:
Spine, Hip Joint and Low-Back Pain
These problems may be related to the alignment between spine, hip joint, pelvis and muscles responsible for providing movement of these structures.
Spine and pelvis are supposed to maintain a neutral position statically and dynamically. However, increasing amounts of time in sedentary life and lack of physical movement lead to poor posture and muscles imbalances preventing neutral pelvis and spine alignment. In addition, the gluteal muscles activation and strength should be of primary concern when evaluating these injuries.
The spine has four curves: cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral. The lumbar curve alignment is very important and it can be a reason for low-back problems. Also, it affects the thoracic and cervical spines because they rely on the proper alignment of the lumbar spine.
Pelvis position determines the alignment of the upper and lower body. Its movement is referred as posterior tilt (to the body front), anterior tilt (to the body back) and neutral tilt (located between anterior and posterior positions). The proper pelvis alignment is in a neutral position. If you are unaware where your pelvis is positioned the pelvis might be in anterior or posterior positions. It might cause problems to the spine, hip joints and legs including knees and ankles.
Pelvis and lumbar spine are connected, and a proper alignment between them should be maintained for all body positions. An example of an exercise to accomplish to maintain a proper lumbar curve is on all four or quadruped position when arms and knees are on the floor. You need to practice the pelvis and spine alignment by getting from quadruped to standing position.
I find that most of my clients have a very limited movement and awareness of the hip joint and pelvis. It means the hip joints and pelvis are probably locked or misaligned and have to be unlocked, and aligned for the body to function normally. The pelvis and spine misalignment can create a host of conditions in the lower and upper body including fibromyalgia back, knees, hip and spine pain.
Also, if the hip joints and pelvis are not in neutral alignment, the gluteal muscles would exhibit weakness and poor activation. The first step is to develop a higher sense of awareness and perform exercises such as leg lifts in all directions engaging pelvis, hip joints, and gluteal muscles.
Shoulder and Neck Pain
The alignment and muscles of the shoulder girdle should be evaluated to treat shoulder and neck injuries. The shoulder girdle includes the collarbone, shoulder blades, and shoulder joints. Almost all clients I trained or training now had improper shoulder girdle alignment which includes conditions such as forward head and rounded shoulders. These issues can lead to various shoulder problems such as rotator cuff tendinitis and tears, biceps tendinitis, impingement syndrome and shoulder dislocation.
If the scapula (shoulder blades) is stabilized, the shoulder joint would have the support to stay properly aligned. The exercises to stabilize the scapula is moving shoulder blades while keeping the shoulder joint fixed, lifting arms and engaging the shoulder blades, and rotating shoulder joint, blade, and arm as one unit.
Aside from alignment, the shoulder girdle needs the support of the ribcage and abdominal muscles to function properly. If the abdominal muscles are weak, it will make the ribcage tight, and it put the girdle out of alignment.
Many of my clients didn’t know how to properly engage the abdominal muscles. After years of performing a variety of crunch exercises on the floor and without correct alignment and activation, it made abdominal muscles weak.
You can try this test. From standing position bend the upper body forward and back to straight position. Check the tension of the abdominal muscles with your hand around the bellybutton when bending forward and lifting the body to a straight position. If there’s no difference in the muscle tension for each position it means abdominal muscles are not properly functioning.
Knee, Lower Leg, Foot, and Ankle Pain
Knees, feet and ankles are complex structures consisting of ligaments, cartilage, bones and muscles. Improper pelvis alignment could be responsible for knee disorders such as patellar tendinitis, ligament injuries, cartilage tears, knee bursitis and arthritis.
Pronation distortion syndrome is characterized by excessively flat feet and it can lead to knee, lower leg, foot and ankle injuries including shin splints, patellar tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis.
Prolonged imbalances can result in a muscle coordination breakdown and it cause injuries such as anterior compartment syndrome, ankle sprains, Achilles tendinitis, cartilage tears, ligament sprains, knee osteoarthritis and bursitis. Also, sitting for an extended period of time adds to the problems by making muscles tighter in these areas triggering compensation issues.
Stretching is ineffective because it provides only temporary relief and improper biomechanics of pelvis and hip joints should be evaluated to address these issues. For example, if pelvis is misaligned it can make the calf muscles (gastrocnemius & soleus) tight, and the foot won’t be able to move properly.