If you go to the gym on a regular basis, you are well aware of the importance of proper lifting form and core engagement for healthy movement. In our everyday lives outside of the gym, we also engage in activities that involve lifting, such as picking up a child, carrying groceries, and moving furniture. While these tasks may seem mundane, improper lifting techniques can lead to strain, muscle imbalances, and even spinal or musculoskeletal injuries. This blog aims to educate and empower individuals with the knowledge of proper lifting form, enabling them to protect their spine and prevent potential injuries. At Integrated Health Solutions, the doctors utilize a myriad of tools and therapies to improve the body system and one of our most valuable protocols is called Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization. The concept is that the nervous system establishes programs to control human posture, movement and gait. Motor control is an interaction between the central nervous system and the musculoskeletal system to efficiently move and coordinate our body through movement. This ‘motor control’ is largely established during the first critical year of life. In the clinical setting, Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization emphasizes neurodevelopmental aspects of motor control in order to assess and restore dysfunction of the locomotor system and associated syndromes. By implementing these techniques, you can help ensure a healthier and pain-free lifestyle.
Understanding the Importance of Proper Movement Form: The impact of improper lifting on the spine cannot be understated. Aside from the obvious problem of lifting more weight than you can handle, even lifting light weights can have catastrophic implications when done repetitively. Not only are you over-stressing the muscles that are activated by the movement, you are also creating compensations – activation of muscle groups that are primarily responsible for other tasks.
These compensations create imbalance and loss of motor control, that is, loss in the nervous system’s ability to implement the proper program for controlling the movement. For example, a motor control dysfunction with the squat can be due to issues such as gluteal inhibition and/or overactivity with tension of antagonist muscles. If the glutes are not firing properly or engaging enough, your body will create compensations in order to successfully complete the task of squatting. That or you will loss ideal range of motion and the movement will be limited. Conversely, if the antagonist muscles, commonly found on the anterior aspect of the lumbopelvic region (hip flexors, quads, etc.) are overactive and/or tense, the squat will again be dysfunctional. As top-rated Indianapolis chiropractors, we perform many functional tests in the clinic to determine motor control dysfunctions. Selective Functional Movement Assessment is an important set of tests that has been shown to have almost perfect intra-rater reliability and good inter-rater reliability among experienced clinicians when used as a movement-based diagnostic tool that provides clinicians with a standard to identify movement dysfunction in patients with known musculoskeletal injury. This is one of the most thorough tests that can be performed in a clinical setting, but there are tests you can do at home:
Testing Motor Control vs. Mobility
- Perform a squat while filming yourself from the side. Go as low as you feel comfortably going without pain.
- Perform the same movement while holding onto a bar, wall or strap.
Review the two videos to determine if you were able to perform a deeper, more efficient squat in the second video. The challenge for the body is to move through the entire available range of motion while properly stabilizing the spine to keep it in neutral. If you can squat deeper with the second technique, you need to work on controlling your body throughout movement via neuromuscular development. If you were limited in your motion in both videos, then it can be surmised that you have a mobility issue. To further test this movement pattern, lie on the floor and bring your legs up, first at 90 degree angle for the hips and knees and then progress as if you are performing the squat while horizontal. If you can move cleanly in and out of this squat, motor control and instability are your limiting factors.
Training the Neuromuscular System
Move like a baby. In Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization training, we use movement patterns based on the first 13 months of life. At 3 months, babies begin holding their heads up during “tummy time”. This pattern actually develops motor control to the cervical spine. At 7 months babies start to pick themselves up off the ground into what is referred to as he quadruped position. This leads to crawling which a very important functional movement that can be considered the basis for us humans learning to walk, run and climb. Babies are typically able to squat and stand around the end of the first year.
Work on Control First, Then Strength
You cannot strengthen a muscle that your brain cannot properly activate! The doctors at Integrated Health Solutions can help incorporate exercises that will allow you to build up your motor control properly while helping to reduce the disfunction and pain associated. Once you are given exercises, a lot of practice is required! Hold or high repetitions can help ingrain correct motor patterning while focusing on quality of movement. Motor patterning exercises are often performed at least daily, sometimes even a few times a day if you can tolerate it. Listening to and watching the body can facilitate learning and establish optimal movement pattern. Take videos and give yourself honest feedback, Avoid holding positions when shaking, in pain or losing ideal form.
Implementing Strategies – Lifting Techniques for Everyday Activities
Maintaining a stable base and balanced posture while carrying objects, even very light ones, is crucial. Utilize the legs and core muscles for support while also focusing on proper breathing. Other key tips include alternating sides to distribute the load evenly. using proper hand placement and grip, avoiding excessive twisting or bending and seeking assistance when dealing with heavy or bulky items to reduce strain. Common mistakes to avoid: lifting with a rounded or arched back, twisting while lifting or carrying objects and overloading yourself with excessive weight.
Mastering proper lifting form is crucial for maintaining a healthy spine and preventing injuries during everyday activities. By implementing the techniques discussed in this blog, you can significantly reduce the risk of strain, muscle imbalances, and spinal damage. Remember, your spine is the foundation of your body, and taking care of it should be a priority. When issues arise, selecting the most qualified and caring doctors matters. At Integrated Health Solutions, our Indianapolis doctors pride themselves on providing the most comprehensive and compassionate care in the area. We have patients from surrounding areas such as Carmel, Fishers, Greenwood and Avon but also patients that travel from much further distances to receive our care.
Content provided by Dr. Drew Hunt
- Using The Selective Functional Movement Assessment and Regional Interdependence Theory To Guide Treatment of an Athlete With Back Pain: A Case Report. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. Gabriella R. Goshtigian, DPTpastedGraphic.png1 and Brian T. Swanson, PT, DSc, OCS, FAAOMPT1
- Comparison of yoga and dynamic neuromuscular stabilization exercise in chronic low back pain on magnetic resonance imaging of lumbar multifidus- protocol for a randomized controlled trial
Prem Venkatesan, Soundararajan K, Thomas J. Kishen, Seema Janardhan, Sathish Kumar CR
Contemp Clin Trials Commun. 2022 Aug; 28: 100937. Published online 2022 May 28. doi: 10.1016/j.conctc.2022.100937
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