As a physiotherapist, one of the questions that my patients ask me frequently is, ‘why do basic everyday movements hurt’?
They want to understand why simply standing up from a chair, or twisting to reach for a dinner plate will trigger their symptoms.
“I didn’t lift anything heavy! Why would something so simple hurt me?”
In instances where there isn’t a single traumatic mechanism of injury, the answer usually lies in our primitive movements.
What is a ‘Primitive Movement’?
First, let’s define what a primitive movement is: it’s a basic motion that allows us to transition towards locomotion. We twist, rotate, and move all the time. Rolling, pushing up, and kneeling are at the core of what allows us to do our everyday tasks. As we walk, one hip moves forward and so does the opposite shoulder. When we get out of bed, we roll over and push up. Our body moves on so many different planes.
Primitive movements start in infancy. Picture an infant – they are very flexible, much more so than adults. They will need to quickly learn how to stabilize their bodies against the forces of gravity in order to explore the world around them. They have to learn to roll over before they can push up. They must learn to push up before they crawl. And they must crawl before they walk.
Those mechanisms are learned early and symmetrically. If these patterns become faulty, we will compensate to get the task done. Compensations are a survival instinct. These compensations are developed and carried with us over a lifetime as we adapt to changing demands on our body (more sitting and less moving), preferential activities, and limitations after an injury.
But when do we go back and assess our ability to carry out those primitive movements?
Have you ever noticed that you are able to roll effortlessly onto one side versus the other? Or that a side plank is simple on your left versus your right side? Do certain exercises require more concentration than they should when you perform with one limb or the other?
In many instances, these inefficient patterns are due to asymmetries and limitation in our body’s ability to stabilize itself. And these basic patterns will play into your ability to stabilize your body while twisting to reach that plate in the dishwasher, or getting up from that chair. If you have a poor ability to stabilize, then you are leaving yourself at a higher risk for injury, even with simple movements.
Building Your Deep Core Stabilizers
Did you know that even if your larger muscles are strong, it is nearly impossible for those larger muscles to execute simple primitive patterns with efficiency or quality? This is why simple everyday movements will trigger pain. These movements demand more of your deeper core stabilizers; if they do not work in harmony with the larger muscles groups, you will experience pain and limitation in function.
It’s important to isolate these muscles in order to bring awareness to the area of deeper core musculature you are trying to focus on. You might work on isolating your transverse abdominus or glute medius. But just because you can use a muscle on its own, does not mean that you will use them during a functional task.
It is not as simple as running through a few exercises to get the muscles “trained and working” like you may do with larger muscle groups. It requires training with function.
Training the body to use the muscles during rolling, kneeling, and push up activities are a must if you want to recover fully!
Not sure if your stabilizing systems are working properly? Come in and get assessed today by SEMI’s professional sports therapists in Toronto, who can devise a workout regimen that’ll help you meet your fitness goals.
Book an appointment online today!