Frontier Movement, Health and Healing in Action

Full Range of Motion

Let us talk directly about moving through an old injury. In choosing this approach I had no models or mentors to help me find my way. I have taken courses in many types of movement but healing was not discussed. To allow our bodies to heal naturally there are a few important things on which we must focus our intentions.

The words “full range of motion” are given much lip service in the world of body movement, but seldom is this the case in practice. Our knee pain loop (work-pain-rest-work-pain-rest) is reinforced by squatting only to the 90 degrees proscribed by most trainers. What happens when go well below that while skiing or falling in sports? Knee pain and/or tendon tears occur or reoccur. You have trained the support tendons and ligaments to support the knee in only HALF its operating range. Below that range, the knee has no integrity and for that matter, nor do the ligaments which is precisely why they often tear.

Also foreign bodies (bits of bone, cartlidge) that are natural byproducts of neglect and trauma tend to collect in these unused articulate areas and may become involved in the articulation of the joint when full range is suddenly employed. So for prevention, as well as allowing healing to occur, we must squat to full range: Butt to heels.

As an example of how we have been remiss in our instruction of the general public, I shall use lifting a box from the floor as an example. As I mentioned, we are trained to squat to 90 degrees, in fact a large amount of leg machines in gyms will not allow a greater range. We are also taught to lift using our legs, NOT our backs. As we arrive at 90 degrees, we find something amazing; our hands cannot reach the floor without leaning the torso forward and putting our back in a vulnerable position! To pick up that box, you must have leg integrity and strength all the way to the floor.

To allow the knee to heal, we should not begin with lifting, nor should we begin to squat to full depth on legs that have no full-depth integrity without some assistance. One may simply hold on to anything chest high and lower the body in alignment and raise it with as much arm strength as you can. I have classes for “damaged” knees and have yet to find anyone who cannot perform this movement. In extreme cases the depth must be increased incrementally and if you are feeling discomfort in the knee, do not progress to deeper squats until pain recedes at a given depth.

In my experience, this painless movement eventually occurs in almost 100% of my clients. Full range of motion applies to pulling or pushing with the arms as well. Did you know that a push up is six to ten inches short of full range when your chest hits the floor? Or that a chin up performed to full range becomes a chest up?

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