The Importance of Functional Movement and Self-Care

Our body is a vehicle that our mind drives, which sometimes gets driven into oblivion when the mind is overloaded. We may start to feel fatigue or muscle pain when under a large amount of stress.   At first, a problem or restriction may present itself as an annoying pain.  When it gets ignored, it will start to get worse over time until it gets so bad you have to do something about it.  This happens when we stop taking care of ourselves. 

When your car needs maintenance, you would bring it to the mechanic.  The same applies to you. When you feel pain and restriction with physical activity and motion, you would make an appointment to see a licensed body worker to work with you in order to free up those restrictions and improve range of motion.   When you no longer have the ability to move pain-free and perform simple daily tasks, you are bound to have restrictions that affect your functional movement. Taking care of yourself requires regular maintenance which is important in order to decrease your risk of pain and injury and increase your potential to achieve your goals. 

What is functional movement? 

Functional movement can be described as any real-world physical movement that requires multi-joint action in multiple planes of movement that incorporates core musculature and innervation.   In other words, functional movement is your everyday movement and posture that you do naturally in real life situations.  Picking things up and putting them down, reaching overhead, climbing stairs or sitting down, shoveling snow, walking to your car or carrying groceries! You don’t have to be an athlete to do these things.  These are innate movements our bodies designed for and are very capable of doing.  Living with pain and restriction is not a proper use of the specially designed vehicle you have been given.  In terms of physical fitness, you can be as strong as an ox and be able to lift hundreds of pounds or you can be an ultramarathon runner and run hundreds of miles and still be restricted by poor movement mechanics.

How does this apply to everyone in today’s society?

Functional movement is essential for everyday life and having a restricted range of motion is a key player in obstructing that. Lack of mobility hinders your ability to perform in everyday life situations. Think of all the physical movement you do on a daily basis and how you feel when you do it.

How do you feel at the start and end of each day? Do you feel refreshed and agile, where you wake up with the “reflexes of a cat and the speed of a mongoose” or do you feel tired and achy all over, left feeling like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck?

Are you currently suffering from or have ever suffered from any kind of joint pain or injury? When was the last time you could confidently reach overhead, climb stairs, or get up out of a chair without pain?

How is your mental game? How much stress are you under?  When is that deadline again?

The amount of stress you are under, your lifestyle habits, and nutrition can cause a lack of mobility and movement that affects you physically and limits your potential for optimal functionality in terms of biomechanics regardless of your fitness level. Everything is tied together; Emotions, mentality, and your physical body all work together. It is when they are not in sync that problems arise.

You might be thinking, “that is definitely not me. I’m never stressed out, I’m in tiptop shape, and my nutrition is on point,” which may very well be the case, but let’s be honest here, it’s a rarity to find the average American that lives like this and stays with it long term. If you are one of those people who has learned to live optimally free from all pain and restriction, you are a rare gem keep on doing what you’re doing. But for those who are not there yet and for those who are trying their best to get to that point of optimal health, take a moment and be honest with yourself, how do you feel and what do you need to change to get there. 

The importance of self-care

Self-care is exactly how it sounds.  It is the means of taking care of oneself mentally, physically, and spiritually.  Without self-care, you risk losing touch with yourself.  This affects you greatly in terms of movement.  When you’re overcome with stress and work, the effects of this burden starts to close you off at the core.  Patterns of this can present as lazy core muscles that are intended to support you and keep you upright, rounded shoulders, slumping or rounding of the upper back, or excessive forward head posture. All of this cause tightness and shortening of the anterior muscles in the chest and core and lengthening of the posterior muscles of the upper and mid-back.  An optimal way to address these issues is to meet with a professional bodyworker such as a licensed massage therapist or any licensed professional that specializes in the human frame and its functions. It is always beneficial to have another pair of eyes that have been specifically trained to look for imbalances within your frame to address any structural issues that will ultimately help you regain normal functional movement patterns in order to become stronger and less prone to re-injury.  If you to strengthen your body without unwinding your physical restrictions, you’re defeating the purpose of your goal, putting the cart before the horse so to speak.  Utilizing bodywork is an effective way to alleviate stress, decrease pain and increase the range of motion and functionality in those who suffer from chronic musculoskeletal dysfunctions.

It is normal to feel pain and stress it lets you know you’re alive. It is how you manage it that matters. For example, optimizing oneself could be learning how to channel pain and stress into markers of self-improvement.  Living life in painful states motion be it physical, mental, or spiritual shouldn’t be part of your daily routine.  Everyone deserves to experience the freedom of motion without pain. 

Written by Kimberly Johnson, Licensed Massage Therapist

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