What IS Mobility, Anyway?

What IS Mobility Anyway

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Mobility is a strange term. It can mean anything from the anatomically defined available joint movement to the more contemporary method of assisted travel.

At The Moballise Physiotherapy Clinic, we tend to deal with the former definition much more often!

All of us have pretty much the same anatomy. By that I mean, by example, we all have shoulders. We all have the same bones in and around our shoulders. We have identically named muscles that are responsible for moving our shoulder joints. The exact same ligaments, tendons, fascia, capsules and other, non-contractile connective tissues limit the absolute extent of the movement in our shoulders. The available movement within our shoulder joints can, therefore, be defined and measured up to the point at which our anatomy limits any further movement. It can, however, be defined in two ways – passive and active movement ability, or mobility.

Passive joint movement ability is pretty much fixed. It is ultimately limited by the fixed structures of, around and within the joint. When you move your shoulder, raising your arm out to the side with your little finger pointing to the ceiling, you will reach a point where you are no longer able to raise your arm any further. this is normally due to the structural limitations of the passive movement ability available at the anatomical shoulder joint.

Active joint movement ability is, thankfully, very much changeable. It is measured and defined by the amount of movement YOU can create at the joint. For example, someone that very rarely needs to reach overhead regularly and repeatedly during the day is likely to have a significantly lower level of shoulder mobility when compared to an Olympic swimmer.

This is because of many variables, although the essential truth returns to the very fundamental ‘use it or lose it’ principle.

Your body is enormously efficient.

If you hardly ever utilise an available range of movement your body will resorb the excess soft tissue for use elsewhere in your body. You really do have to use a range of movement in order to retain its availability. There are other factors involved, of course, which will limit this available joint mobility. One of the greatest factors is the continual effect of muscular contraction on joints.

Every joint exists to ALLOW movement. Every muscle exists to PROVIDE movement. Every time a muscle contracts and shortens, a joint moves. HOWEVER. Every time the muscle contracts and shortens, a microscopic amount of tightness, or tension, is created within the muscle. This tension will remain passive in the muscle as passive muscular tension. If this passive tension is allowed to build up, it will eventually affect the contractile potential of the muscle and, ultimately, the available movement ability of the underlying joint.

Hence, the degree of available joint mobility is a liquid, constantly changing variable. It is very much affected by all activities of daily living and, much more importantly, it is dominated in the long term by the recovery and compensation following all activity.

If you wish to maintain your mobility in the long term over your life span you ABSOLUTELY have to learn how to manage the passive muscular tension within your muscles.

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