Often times patients associate neck and low back injuries with muscle weakness. They believe that their injuries are the result of a weak core, weak back muscles, weak arms/legs, or a lack of general fitness. While de-conditioned muscle tissue is a huge factor that can contribute to future injuries, most people do not realize that muscles can exhibit weakness not because they are weak, but because they are being inhibited-that is they are being told not to work by some other muscle group that is dominating a particular motion.
For example, tight hip flexors- the result of sitting at a computer all day will inhibit the core muscles from working correctly. So all the crunches and sit-ups in the world will never make the core muscles strong enough to support the low back if they are being told not to work by the tight hip flexor muscles. In fact, most ab work only serves to further tighten the hip flexors, and make the low back weaker and more unstable.
This is true with most exercises meant to target a perceived weakness- it only worsens the condition and leads to further injury because the muscles aren’t weak, rather they don’t function correctly because they are being inhibited.
In many cases it’s not the exercises that a person isn’t doing that lead to pain and injury, but rather it’s the ones that he is doing that are problematic and should be eliminated from the exercise routine. After careful inspection, most people are doing exercises that they have no business trying to perform.
Why would a volleyball player work on improving her vertical leap if she can not do a squat correctly? Why would a football player who can not do a mechanically correct push up continue to struggle to get a 300 lbs bench press?
Ultimately, the problem is that a person is trying to pile fitness on top of dysfunction, and the end result is often further injury, frustration, and the belief that they are now delicate or can’t participate in life.
Before starting on any fitness program, or if you are already in the middle of one, ask your trainer or chiropractor to perform a Functional Movement Screen on you to determine what mechanical asymmetries, immobilities or instabilities you might have. By identifying the weak link in your movement patterns you might be able to save yourself a whole lot of frustration and possibly a lifetime of pain and dysfunction. We currently have two certified, in house, Functional Movement Specialists who would be more than happy to assist you in analyzing your movement patterns.