We don’t often think about how we move…. Until we can’t or are restricted in our movement, and then it affects everything we do.
Neck, shoulder, back, knee, ankle and even toes and fingers can get stiff and sore.
Repetitive movements, poor posture are the two main culprits. Sitting too long, standing too long, fatigue posture, tight-fitting shoes are also contributors. These can lead to our muscles becoming tight and our joints feeling stiff.
Do you wake up in the morning and find it challenging to get yourself moving without stiffness and often pain? At the end of the day or even by midday, do your back, feet, neck, or any other joints hurt?
Sitting at a computer all day or texting with a forward head position, we feel it in our necks and backs. Jobs that require continuous hand movements or a tool like a jackhammer (vibration) can link to hand, finger, wrist and forearm pain.
Joint and muscle health are critical to functional and free movement patterns. If we are not addressing the issues we are having in our body, they continue to get worse. If we take the time to work on those areas, it can make a world of difference in feeling better.
Meeting with a trainer or doing a self-assessment can go a long way to improving your movement patterns.
Some of our joints in the body are what we call mobility joints. They are meant to move in a wide variety of patterns and have more extensive ROM (range of motion). Other joints are intended to be more stable, these stability joints need to have strong supporting muscles.
Your mobility joints are:
- Glenohumeral (shoulder)
- Thoracic Spine (mid-back)
Your stability joints are:
- Scapulothoracic (shoulder blade)
- Lumbar spine (low back)
Perform movement patterns that bring your joints through their full ranges of motion, (which will be your personal range at the time you are doing it).
As your body progresses your joints will move better. As postural deviations are corrected, you will move more fluidly and freely.
For some of us who may have joint degeneration or any other medical issue that we do not have control over is a different matter. But in saying that keeping the muscles surrounding those joints extensible (stretched) and healthy will go a long way in helping deal with pain and feeling better overall.
I know what that pain feels like. I have personally just had a total hip replacement due to being born with dysplasia and ending up with osteoarthritis. By keeping my muscles strong and extensible, my recovery was speedy, and I was back doing the things I loved in no time at all.
Here are a few movement patterns and stretches that will help:
As always, if it does not feel right or there is pain, tingling, or numbness STOP. Reassess your body positioning, modify if needed and if there is still discomfort, DISCONTINUE and see your doctor.
#1 LOW LUNGE / REACH
This is a great movement to stretch and open up your anterior hips as well as your target the mid-back.
- Starting in half kneeling position on your mat. Start with the right leg out front, and the foot extended out a little farther than the knee. Core tight, shoulders down and arms extended out in front of you.
- Contracting your left glute (buttocks) begin to lunge forward until you feel the stretch in your left hip flexors (deep front of your hip). Begin to bring the arms up
- Continue to bring your arms up and focus on the extension happening in your MID back. DO NOT sink into your low back.
- Hold for 5 – 10 seconds (work your way up to 20 – 30 seconds)
- Bring back to starting position and repeat 3 – 5 times.
- Switch legs and repeat the sequence with the left leg forward.
#2 KNEELING HAMSTRING / ANKLE STRETCH
This stretch will target the hamstrings (back of the upper leg), gastrocnemius/soleus (calf muscles), tibialis anterior (front of the lower leg), and some gluteus maximus (buttocks muscle). It also works hip and ankle ROM.
- Kneeling on your mat. Extend your right leg out in front of you with your heel on the ground, and your foot relaxed. Keeping your back in a neutral position and tightening your core begin to fold forward from the hip joints until you feel the stretch in the hamstrings.
- You have an option to put yoga blocks (or books) under your hands if touching the floor is too far for you to reach with proper alignment
- Now bring your toes/foot up towards your body (dorsiflexion). Hold 5 – 10 seconds.
- Now with your knee slightly bent, rotate your foot out to the side. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds and bring back to the center
- Now point your toes/foot away from you towards the floor (plantar flexion). Hold for 5 – 10 seconds and bring back to the center.
- Repeat with the left leg forward.
#3 ADDUCTOR (INNER THIGH) STRETCH
This stretch will target your adductor muscles (inner thigh) and is also a great hip opener.
- Kneeling on the floor bring your left leg out to the side
- Bring your hands down to the ground with the wrists under the shoulders.
- If it is too difficult to bring your hands to the floor, you can put them on two yoga blocks, books, or a chair.
- From here, begin to drop your hips back towards your heel. Taking it to the point where you feel the stretch.
- Hold for 5 – 10 seconds working your way up to 20 – 30 seconds. Repeat 3 – 5 times
- Switch legs and repeat with the right leg out to the side
#4 COW / CAT LATERAL
This is a functional movement pattern to work on the spinal joints. Low, mid and upper back are focused on as well as the muscles along the sides of your torso.
- Start in an all-fours position with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips, spine is neutral.
- Keeping your neck in neutral and shoulders stable allow the low back to drop and create an arch.
- Now round your back up and tuck your chin in.
- From here, shift your hips to the right and your upper body to the right. As if you were trying to make the letter ‘C’ with your body.
- Now shift to the left
- Bring it back to center and a neutral spine
- Hold each position 5 – 10 seconds, working your way up to 20 – 30 seconds.
- Repeat 3 – 5 times
#5 PRONE ARM/LEG REACH
This is an excellent movement to strengthen the muscle on the posterior side of the body.
- Laying on your mat on your stomach. Extend and reach the arms overhead and the legs straight out behind you
- Keeping your head on the mat, lift your right arm and your left leg off the floor. It does not have to lift very high, but you do need to keep the pelvis down and do not rotate through the spine
- Hold 5 – 10 seconds, working your way up to 20 – 30 seconds
- Repeat on the other side. Left-arm and right leg.
#6 LATERAL HEAD TILT
This is an excellent stretch for your medial deltoids (mid shoulders), upper trapezius and neck muscles.
- Standing to bring your right hand behind you and hold your wrist with your left hand gently pulling towards the left
- You also can grab both elbows behind your back if you have the shoulder joint flexibility to do so.
- Slowly tilt your left ear towards your left shoulder WITHOUT allowing your shoulders to hike up.
- Hold 5 – 10 seconds, working your way up to 20 – 30 seconds
- Now bring your head back to the center. And tilt your right ear towards your right shoulder
- Repeat 3 – 5 times
#7 WALL ROLLS
The second phase is focused on spinal movements and stretching through the posterior parts of the body. When rolling down, it is essential to think of moving like a bicycle chain, one vertebra at a time.
- The first step is to see if you can get your heels, buttocks, upper back, shoulders/blades and head against the wall without a huge gap.. or.. No gap in the low back and neck area. Make a note of how well you can do with this.
- Now take your feet away from the wall
- Starting at the neck begin to roll down one vertebra at a time until your hands either reach the floor or shins, above knees or where ever your range of motion takes you.
- Pause and relax
- Now begin to reverse that motion starting at the low back and to roll back up until your head is up and looking straight forward
- Repeat 3 – 5 times.
You can do these movements and range of motion patterns each day. It is always good to take note of where you are at with each exercise/movement so you can compare later to see just how much you have improved. Consistency is key. Keep at it and you will see the improvement and feel so much better in no time at all.