How injury impacts the way we move

Over the last ten years or so, we have seen a massive shift in the way we assess individuals (from athletic backgrounds or otherwise) in regards to both their risk of injury and their capacity for physical performance.

Traditionally we have opted for isolated muscle and joint testing, looking at the strength of individual muscles and range of motion at individual joints.

And while I will admit that this method of assessment does provide some information, its usefulness is quite limited. You see, muscles don’t work in isolation, but as a collective. As such, these means of assessment provide absolutely no information on how our muscles work collectively – you know – as they would in the real world.

Which is why this shift is assessment has moved away from isolated muscle and joint testing towards a more integrated approach.

And this more integrated approach?

 

Movement Quality Assessment

The assessment of Movement quality effectively describes the assessment of the body during movement, which provides invaluable information on potential muscular dysfunction and movement deficiencies.

Within this, it is commonly accepted that the way we move can suggest an increased risk of injury, with those who move poorly (and subsequently exhibit limited or ‘low’ movement quality) are more likely to get injured during both sporting scenarios and day to day activity.

Which is really quite a logical train of thought. If we move poorly, the way in which we load our joints will be different to if we moved well. This would result in an increased strain on the passive support structure of the body (think ligaments, tendons, and joint capsules) and altered muscular loading – both of which are likely to lead to increased stress on specific tissues, and potential injury as a result.

You may recognize some of the more common movement quality assessments (such as our very own MovementSCREEN PRO) which both provide a valuable way of assessing movement in its entirety, wand a clear indication of injury risk.

But what is discussed less often, is the impact that injury can have on movement quality.

 

Injury and movement

Both acute and chronic injuries often result in particular movements becoming painful – this holds true whether we are discussing a muscle tear or the onset of low back pain – and as a result, we tend to avoid those painful movements entirely, or start to move differently (developing a movement compensation) as means to avoid pain.

Which makes sense. This compensation (in the short term) is actually a good thing, as it can lead to the unloading of those injured tissues, promoting healing while also reducing the risk of further injury.

But, if this pain is prolonged, it can lead to chronic changes in movement that go by completely unnoticed by the injured individual. Which leads into the scenario mentioned above, in which altered movement is the outcome – ultimately leading to an increased injury risk, while also potentially leading to chronic pain.

 

So what can we do about it?

But fortunately for us, these altered movement patterns are by no means a death entrance – poor movement quality (even as a result of pain) can be changed through targeted training interventions.

Ill use a current client of mine (let’s call her Susan) as an example.

Susan came to use with chronic low back and knee pain, and a host of associated movement dysfunction (it is important to note that we don’t know whether the pain came before the movement dysfunction or vice versa – but what we do know is that they are both apparent).

If we look at her MovementSCREEN PRO report below, we can see not only the limitations in her movement, but also her suggested injury risk.

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In response, we focused on improving trunk and hip stability, while also improving lower body strength. While I won’t go through everything little thing we did, I can summarize it pretty much as follows: we used appropriate strength training regressions, working towards deadlifting, squatting, and lunging with appreciable load. We also used glute and trunk activation exercises, and then hip and trunk stability exercises.

And after 12 weeks of training the results speak for themselves:

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Now while the pictures do show improvements across the board, the greatest observed increase (for me and Susan anyway) is her reductions in pain and increases in physical strength.

She no longer has low back or knee pain, and has progressed to deadlifting above her bodyweight, while smashing out bodyweight chin ups for reps (2-3 sets of 3 reps).

This has come with marked improvements in movement across the board.

 

What should we do about it?

I think this in itself provides a fantastic demonstration of the importance of quality movement, and how it not only impacts injury risk, but also pain in general.

If you are in pain, or have a previous history of injuries (or know someone who does), I would implore you to pay close attention to how you move, and focus in improving it.

And more so, if you don’t know where to start, then it may be in your best interest to undertake a movement quality assessment with us to not only receive a tangible measure of your current movement quality, but also to identify your greatest areas of injury risk.

Seriously, get in contact today – you will be much better for it.

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