By WIN Contributor: Dr. Nicholas Slowinski, Chiropractor
Many of the WIN Health Solutions health care providers spend a good portion of their time working on athletes. These patients come in the door in all shapes and sizes, however are still for the most part the minority of our patient population. The truth however, is that “being athletic” is an essential skill, and when it comes right down to it, even the task of rising from a chair in the waiting room can be an ‘athletic task’ for some.
Now, there are many things that contribute to athleticism, but mobility is certainly an important one that affects us all, especially mobility in the hips. The majority of the workforce today spends most of their day sitting, one of the worst things we could do for our mobility, yet we do it so often. This causes certain muscles to shorten, or rather condition to a certain range or motion, which limits our mobility.
In short, our tissue tolerance to load and movement about the hip is limited. THIS IS THE PROBLEM, why…
…Because the demand doesn’t change! Every athletic task known to man, involves some mobility of the hip, and if the tissue tolerance limits our ability to load and stretch tissues appropriate for the task, our brain finds a short cut! This compensation is what often leads to injury!
It should be no surprise that this lack of mobility can lead to injury at the hip joint, however it can also lead to injury in the knee and low back. Due to certain muscle and facial connections in the body, poor hip mobility can even lead to injury and compensation of the shoulder joint. This is a common occurrence in recreational sport, and you don’t have to look hard to find good examples.
Have you ever swung a golf club? Interestingly enough, golfers are at a significant risk of hip related injury due to the increased rotation that happens about the hips. As a golfer swings, they must externally rotate around the back hip, transfer weight to the front hip while simultaneously rotating the other direction around their front leg. This means the hip is exposed to a significant amount of internal rotation on the downswing. It should be noted; this requires a great deal of strength in the gluteus maximus and medius to buttress this rotation. Thus, the muscles of the hip also need to be strong.
Need another example? Consider the recreational gym goer performing barbell back squats. The squat is a multi joint, complex movement which requires a significant amount of mobility around several joints to hit that full rep! In order for the rep to be complete, the lifter needs to obtain around 130 degrees of hip flexion. Without access to this range of motion, the body compensates with increased trunk flexion in order to hit depth. This causes an increased amount of anterior shear forces in the low back. Guess what! The low back does not like that…do you know anyone who gets low back pain when they squat?
For more info on this see the following links:
Still not convinced? Well here is an example for my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) friends. Simply put, without adequate hip mobility even the most simple warm up drills such as hip escapes would be difficult. Every technique in BJJ requires some use of the hips, from playing guard, to escaping, to armbars, and controlling someone in mount. For anyone who has trained in martial arts of any kind, lacking adequate hip mobility would make learning new techniques difficult to say the least. Maintaining hip mobility is essential for longevity in the sport.
If hip mobility is so important, how do we work on it? What are things we can do on our own to improve hip mobility, improve tissue tolerance and ultimately prevent injury?
The list of exercises to improve hip mobility is endless using a quick google search. Before you know it, you are looking at hundreds of exercises online to target specific muscles or movements using foam rollers, lacrosse balls etc., and things get complicated in a hurry. So lets simplify it!
First and foremost, if your experiencing pain with movement, whether it be in the hips knees ankles low back etc, it is an indication of dysfunction and you should make it a priority (if you want to continue doing the activity you have chosen) to get adequately accessed by a professional such as the chiropractic or physiotherapy team at WIN Health Solutions. However, if you’re moving relatively pain free and are just looking to improve your hip mobility for what ever the activity may be, here are a few of my favourite mobility drills which target the hips. Check out a video I created that can help target the hips and optimize hip mobility.