Human movement is a marvel. As a physical therapist I have spent my career learning about the many components of human movement, With helping patients recover after an injury or surgery and teaching them how to move well after having postural bad habits, strength, flexibility or pain issues that have limited their movement.
A Vision for Movement
Active movement starts with a mental thought – a vision for intention that requires us to use our body and it’s component parts. To move your body with a task or particular goal in mind. Our motor cortex sends signals via our central nervous system and spinal cord to our peripheral nerves, which activate muscular responses and initiate movement patterns. We can also move sub-consciously and reflexively – without active intention – as many of our movements are controlled by reflexive patterns. Therefore, we don’t think about every movement we make.
Starting to Move
We develop the ability to move with practice. From infancy throughout childhood, adolescence and adulthood, we practice patterns of movement – with intention and with reflexive control – to develop the strength, balance and motor control we need to needed to navigate and manipulate our environment. We develop our body awareness – with peripheral and central nervous system kinesthetic feedback – which allows us to understand the position of our body and how to move it.
From infancy, our human developmental sequence – including eye and head control, rolling, crawling and walking – our patterns of movement are practiced and integrated. We use our motor and sensory cortex, central and peripheral nervous systems and our reflexes to allow many of our movements to occur without active cognitive thought. For many of our movements, we don’t think about how we walk, stand or move. We just do it.
When we are learning a new task or pattern of movement, we must provide cognitive oversight. We slow down – and really think about what we are doing and how we are doing it – until we begin to integrate the new and complex movement pattern. Once patterns of movement are learned, we can then increase the speed of movement with much less cognitive oversight required. In this training process, it’s important to practice with proper technique, as poor habits of movement can cause dysfunction, pain and injury.
Postures can be sustained and/or repeated. We develop postural habit patterns, often without thought about how we are maintaining them. In our society, with a pre-disposition for forward-oriented and sustained tasks and activities, this often leads to forward head and shoulder postures, neck and back strain and with ischemic, tight and sore musculature.
Muscles as Shock Absorbers
Muscular control of movement patterns is key, as the muscles act as shock absorbers around your joints. With good muscular control, your joints should have very little stress on them. The good news is that we can develop good habits for movement, including the kinesthetic awareness, recruitment patterns and body awareness required. And we can re-train bad habits and learn to move efficiently and well. An old dog can learn new tricks.
Your Heart & Lungs
Most people don’t think about their heart and lungs as key elements required for human movement. But they are the engines of our body – providing circulation, oxygenation and nutrition – necessary for us to move well. To ensure optimal movement and function over your lifespan, you should spend as much time with focus on strengthening and conditioning your cardio-vascular system as you do on your musculo-skeletal system.
As a physical therapist, I believe it’s important for each person to understand their body, how each joint moves and functions, As well as how your body moves as a whole. Giving you an understanding of the arthrokinematics and inter-related movement patterns that allow for pain-free movement. For humans, this requires good movement of the hips, knees and shoulder girdle areas – along with core stability – in order to move and function without strain on the back or neck. Unfortunately, many people in our society are not moving well.
The good news is that everyone can improve body awareness. Including where and how you are moving; how to improve your balance to reduce your risk for falls; how to improve hip, knee and ankle motion in order to take strain off your back; and how to improve postural alignment and shoulder girdle mobility to take strain off your neck. Core stability is a natural pattern – part of the developmental sequence as an infant – and it can be re-learned as well.
Use It or You Lose It
Our bodies and our brain are amazing. Blood supply , nutrition, nervous system stimulation and cellular metabolism will be delivered to the body areas that require it. Based on the use of our muscles, joints, connective tissue and movement systems. This stimulation must be repeated over time. Just as we can develop strength and endurance with movement and function, we can also lose this capacity with disuse. Our heart, lungs, circulation, balance responses, strength and postures can diminish over time as well.
It’s Never Too Late
More good news – with due diligence, practice and proper training, your body will respond. At any age and any activity level. It’s never too late to start to make improvements in your posture, movement, balance and wellness.
There’s Always Something You Can Do
Start where you are. Make strategic and meaningful intervention – with intention for change and improvement. You may need guidance from a physical therapist to optimize recovery of function, and to be sure that you are re-learning to move optimally. We’re here to help you to achieve your best potential and to help you to achieve your human movement goals.
My best to you in posture, movement, balance & wellness,