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Decrease of body movement: a risk factor for the life cycle

Movement is a key aspect of human life, and a critical element for the participation of any individual in society. Human movement offers us interaction with the environment, facilitating various day-to-day activities.
Globally, the absence or decrease of human movement, manifested in physical inactivity or sedentariness, is currently one of the main risk factors for the development of chronic illnesses and mortality.
Under ideal circumstances, the human movement system should be able to organize and use different movement strategies in order to accomplish a given task, so as to adapt to the constant changes and demands of such task, including the context within which the task is executed. This notion can also be understood as movement variability, or as possessing various movement options.

Movement analysis

Due to its importance, throughout time, the field of kinesics has suggested a series of methods to try to “measure” movement and its quality. The problem with this approach is that all of us move in a different manner, and there is no ideal or “normal” way to move, thus making movement assessment and its patterns a topic which is particularly challenging. However, the fact that a high variability exists among different individuals, and even within one same individual, does not mean that, for that specific individual, a certain specific movement pattern is not clinically relevant. For this same reason, approaches which provide exercise “guidelines” or “formulas” do not have positive outcomes, because they are not properly adapted or customized to the individual’s specific needs.

 

Risk factors

On the other hand, pain and injuries will cause negative effects upon movement, leading the people who are suffering pain to adopt different movement patterns and also affecting movement variability or options, decreasing them. This will cause the individual to begin moving not only differently, but also stereotypically, and this, in turn, will result in – among other consequences – placing loads on the same structures, more frequently, instead of distributing those same loads among different structures, in a more homogeneous manner.

Even though these changes resulting from pain can generate short-term benefits, such as protection of the affected area and, eventually, pain reduction, the truth is that, in the long-run, these changes can have undesired consequences for an athlete’s movement, especially considering that such movement will not return to its original characteristics once the pain has subsided. Changes in movement coordination and strategies can also bring about consequences in the ability to participate in sporting activities in the future, or decrease the level of participation in the athlete’s preferred sport, leading him/her to once again return to the negative vicious cycle of physical inactivity mentioned above.

Here is where the true value and importance of observing, assessing and restoring movement lies, giving the individual the chance to once again avail him or herself of all of the movement options he/she lost as a consequence of pain or injuries, not only at a given point in time, but throughout the athlete’s entire life cycle.

Camila Lüttges S.
Physical Therapist and Aictive clinical advisor.

Author

Paz

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