Movement Strategies for Better Quality of Life and Possibly Reduced Pain
You know how many will say “don’t lift with your back, bend your knees instead”; or how many aunties like to hold grocery close to the elbow crease with their elbow bent instead of through their hands; or how some of us tend to shuffle instead of talking big steps when walking barefoot on wet floors? Those are examples of movement strategies our body chooses, be it consciously or not, to help us complete certain tasks we have to do. Are they useful? Definitely (if I have to do a week’s worth of grocery shopping, solid yes). But are some strategies better than others for a specific task, I’ll say yes and I’ll say context matters, and sustainability needs to be considered too.
At the base of it all, movement strategies are really just ideas and concepts (or even mental representations) of how you will go about activities of daily life or various tasks. If there are certain limitations or if there’s a need to work into certain patterns, you may want to change your strategies accordingly so you can achieve your goals. For example, if you have a sore bad, you may opt to bend through your knees more to pick up the phone that you dropped; or if you have a knee that feels weird, you may choose to fold through your hips more to reach down; or if you are trying to practice the squat, you may instead fold through your knees and hips equally to pick it up. It all depends on your constraints and what you’re trying to achieve.
Why this is important you’ll say? It’s because while good strategies help you get by well, suboptimal/ poorly chosen strategies may breed poor movement mechanics and may even start to wear down structures over time. So do you have to be super mindful of every movement you do? I’ll say no, it’s too taxing. But do you have mindful for certain crucial tasks, I’ll say yes. Generally, if it involves more load/ speed/ non-commonly used movements, it’s good to be mindful. Or if it’s part of your homework, please do.
Other than reconditioning, movement strategies are one of the main things I focus on when working with older adults. This is because the 1 or 2 hours I see them a week is nothing compared to the rest of the 167 hours they have on their own, I prefer to empower individuals so they can be better off all the time, not just the hour a week they see me for. You see, the whole process of regaining functionality is rarely a once-a-week thing because it doesn’t make sense to have clients take one step forward when they see me and take a couple of steps back when I’m not around. It’s really an ongoing process, like keeping a fireplace going through the night; working with strategies will set individuals up to maintain the step forward they took forward, or even do half a step on their own. This will then enable better progressions as we go along. In a certain sense, you can almost say that movement strategies and homework are as important, if not more important, as the sessions individuals do with me.
So if you find that you tend to fall back into the seat when you try to sit down, why don’t you try moving your heel as close to the seat as allowed and lower your bum by folding your knee and hip to come straight down rather than only reaching your bum back and down? If you have made the relevant adjustments but still can’t fully control the lowering, you can always work with chairs/ sofas that are higher and slowly progress the depth as you go along.
Since there is more than one way to skin the cat (or cook an egg), it’s really about finding the strategy that is suitable for the individual and yet will help mo the individual towards his/her goal.
Bear in mind though, movement strategies are not be cast in stone. As you progress and as you start to be stronger or move better, certain strategies may become less relevant and one may benefit a lot more by changing up the strategy as things change. If you had lower back pain before you’ll recall how you tend to want to use your knee a lot more than folding the hip or back; that in itself is a good strategy to go through daily life when the lower back is still sore/ painful. But it quickly becomes a burden on the knees as the knee is made to do what is usually shared between the knee and the hip. So as the lower back improves, it is good to rework hip movement and use both the knee and the hip as a movement strategy to go through activities of daily living.
Sitting down? Bend both knee and hip. Stepping up? Lean the torso forward a bit at the hip to include the hip.
And standing up from the ground through a lunge position? Bend the front knee and hinge a bit at the hip to recruit both the anterior and posterior leg muscles of the front leg.
At the end of the day, movement strategies is like how you’ll try to win 4d betting; you’ll need to get the numbers right, in the right sequence, and on the right occasion (or day) for you to win big. Movement strategies may be left to chance but when we do the appropriate thing at the right time we can reap the benefits it offers. So strategize away!
Progressing your quality of life always,