We’ve all heard that it’s important to stay mobile and flexible as we age to prevent injury, but what exactly is meant by mobility, and what is the difference between mobility and flexibility? Why is mobility important for joint health and injury prevention?
Mobility is the ability to move a joint through a range of motion, whereas flexibility is the ability to passively lengthen a muscle through a range of motion. While both are important, I spend more time working on mobility with my patients than flexibility. Mobility involves strength and neuromuscular control (brain-muscle connection) and closely relates to stability. Stability is the ability to maintain control of a joint movement or position. Having the strength to move joints into various positions purposely is very important for active hobbies and day-to-day activities. Without mobility, even easy tasks like getting in and out of a car can become difficult as we age.
A lack of mobility in various joints increases the risk of injury. Take golf, for example. A golf swing is a high-velocity movement that places high stress on many joints. We especially need to be mobile in the thoracic spine (mid-back), hips and shoulders. These joints often get stiffer as we age, largely due to inactivity and sitting for many hours of the day. In our golfing example, if these joints are stiff, other areas will have to make up for the lack of mobility, often resulting in more force through the lumbar spine and knees. This increases the risk of low back pain and injury, as well as knee injuries.
This is why when we assess an injury, we always look at the joint above and below the injured site; it is important to take all of the factors into account. An assessment with an Athletic Therapist can help identify which joints you may need to improve your mobility to reduce injury risk. We then prescribe exercises for you to target those specific joints/areas. Besides working on mobility exercises, staying active can also help maintain muscle mass, strength, and mobility. Contact our Athletic Therapist, Crystal, today to see how she can help you stay mobile and continue doing the activities you love!
Certified Athletic Therapist