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Mobility vs. Flexibility: Understanding Their Importance in Chiropractic Care

As a chiropractor, I often have discussions around the terms "mobility" and "flexibility." Although they are related, these concepts are distinct, but both are crucial for maintaining a healthy, functional body. Let’s take a look at the differences and why each is important for your overall health.

Flexibility refers to the ability of a muscle or muscle groups to lengthen passively through a range of motion. In simpler terms, it’s how far you can stretch a muscle. For example, can you touch your toes while keeping your legs straight? If so, you have good hamstring flexibility. Flexibility is essential because it contributes to the performance of daily activities and helps prevent injuries, ensuring that your muscles can stretch adequately in response to movement demands.

Mobility, on the other hand, is the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion. This involves not just the muscles surrounding the joint but also the tendons, ligaments, and joint capsule itself. Good mobility means that your joints can move freely and without pain, which is crucial for performing complex movements in sports and daily life. For instance, having good shoulder mobility allows you to reach overhead to grab something from a high shelf comfortably.

While flexibility and mobility may sound similar, they serve different functions. Flexibility is a component of mobility, but having good flexibility does not necessarily mean you will have good mobility. You could have flexible muscles, but if your joints are tight or restricted, your overall mobility may still be compromised.

Limited flexibility and mobility can increase the risk of injuries by forcing the body to compensate during physical activities, leading to strain in areas not equipped to handle it. Regular stretching and mobility exercises can maintain or improve flexibility and joint function, respectively.

Whether you’re an athlete or someone who enjoys a casual jog, enhancing both flexibility and mobility can lead to better performance. Increased range of motion can improve your technique and efficiency in all physical activities.

Regular mobility and flexibility work can help correct postural imbalances and reduce the stress on your skeletal system. For example, tight hip flexors can lead to a forward tilt of the pelvis, which often results in lower back pain.

Simple tasks like bending, reaching, or twisting require adequate flexibility and mobility (certain muscles must lengthen and certain joints must be able to move). Maintaining these aspects of physical health ensures that you can continue performing everyday activities without pain or restriction as you age.

Here are a few recommendations to maintain and improve flexibility AND mobility:

  • Stretch Regularly: Stretch before activities to warm up your muscles, and after activities to improve flexibility.

  • Perform Mobility Exercises: Engage in mobility exercises that involve movement of the joints through their full range of motion. This includes rotations, extensions, and bending exercises. A foam roller is a great tool to help with spinal mobility. 

  • Stay Active: Regular physical activity helps keep the muscles and joints functioning optimally. Even a short walk around the block is better than nothing! i.e.: you are getting lengthening of the hip flexors and pelvis mobility with walking

  • Visit Your Chiropractor: Regular chiropractic adjustments can help enhance joint function and improve both mobility and flexibility. Chiropractors can also provide tailored exercises based on your specific needs. - More on this in my next blog! 

Addressing both flexibility and mobility in your health regimen can lead to a better quality of life and enhanced physical performance. If you have concerns about your flexibility or mobility, consider consulting with a chiropractor to create a plan just for you. Remember, taking care of your body’s movement capabilities is an investment in your health!

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