I train a woman that reminds me of me. When she first started working with me, her movement was guarded. She lacked range of motion at her joints, had very little movement in her thoracic spine from years of “standing up straight,” and couldn’t actively dorsiflex her feet or her wrists. She wasn’t inactive; years of trying to move in a specific manner had manifested into stiffness.* We slowly and in a non-threatening manner began exploring movement, beginning first with teaching her thoracic spine how to flex so she could be better connected to her center and moving on from there. Something that stubbornly remained, despite several efforts on my part, was a lack of extension strength in her wrists. One day, while working on something else, I gave her an ELDOA fascial stretch that involved actively using her arms in a way she wasn’t accustomed to while on her back. It was extremely uncomfortable for her, but after we finished, her ability to extend her wrists increased significantly. It was as though we accidentally unlocked something in her that allowed her brain to realize the movement of extending her wrists was both safe and that she had the ability to do it.
People lack mobility for a number of reasons. Sometimes tissues are actually held short, either due to joint position or lifestyle habits. Sometimes, our muscles are weak and can’t support the movement. Sometimes, there are structural reasons we can’t do something, and sometimes, our brain perceives certain movements might not be safe, so it prohibits our bodies from performing them, even though the fear is unfounded. If our solution to stiffness is to stretch, this doesn’t always get to the root of the problem. When it is a brain issue or perceived fear issue, it might just take a exploring movement from a different perspective. In the case of my client’s wrists, this was the case. The amazing thing with her was 60 seconds of discomfort was enough to keep movement pathways open and available to her that we immediately began using. What is the point of having a capable body if you don’t use it?
*Stiffness is different than the sensation of tightness. If you experience the sensation of tightness and want to know more about potential causes, check out Jules Mitchell’s blog, “You aren’t tight, you feel tight,” or Todd Hargrove’s most recent blog.