Corrective Exercise for Pain Relief

Natalie Foster
April 1, 2020

Corrective Exercise For Pain Relief

Corrective exercises are different than typical strength exercises you might be doing at the gym. Aimed at correcting dysfunctional movements and postures that are causing you pain, corrective exercises improve deficits in the body’s kinetic chains. This blog post will shed some understanding to how your pain may be related to your movement and compensation patterns and how corrective exercise may be the solution you have been looking for.

What is Corrective Exercise?

A corrective exercise is a movement chosen based on an individual assessment, that improves a specific dysfunction or movement compensation. Based on the teachings of Gray Cook, a highly respected orthopedic physical therapist and creator of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), a movement compensation is when a “weak energy link” in a movement pattern in one part of the body causes unnecessary work in another part of the body. This places added stress on certain muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments. Effective corrective exercise focuses on these weak links and according to Cook, targets 3 main components of fundamental movement that build upon each other to create a solid foundation: mobility, stability and motor control.

fms injury prevention

Mobility: What is it, And Why is it Important?

Mobility is the ability to move a limb through its full range of motion (ROM). Mobility corrective work is often focused on improving tissue length and muscle flexibility, and often includes things such as stretching, massage therapy and foam rolling. Mobility corrective exercises are prescribed when a decreased joint ROM and/or pain are identified within a specific movement pattern. For example, when you lift your arm above your head you must have adequate mobility within the joints and muscles in order to complete the full ROM. Limitations in mobility can be caused by tight and weak muscle imbalances, poor posture, previous injuries, incorrect biomechanics, and overuse of repetitive muscle actions. When mobility is compromised, there is not enough sensory input to develop efficient stability and motor control.

Stability & Motor Control

Stability is the ability to maintain control of joint movement by coordinating the actions of surrounding tissues and the neuromuscular system. Mobility and stability usually occur together naturally. In the same example of having adequate mobility to raise your arm over your head, you must also have adequate stability for your shoulder blade to anchor your shoulder to your body in order to hold it in a stable position so that the muscles of your arm can contract and complete the motion efficiently.

Motor control involves the basic timing and sequencing of movement and includes mobility, alignment, balance, coordination, and muscle quickness. Think of motor control as a habit, an automatic movement that happens over and over again creating a hard wired conditioning response. If poor movement habits are developed with a lack of stability, it will lead to pain and injury.

The Last Step: Movement Pattern Retraining

With the 3 fundamental components of movement (mobility, stability and motor-control) in place, the last step is to retrain movement patterns. But what is movement pattern retraining?

Movement pattern retraining blends the fundamental components of movement to train and optimize specific movement patterns. Take the squat for example, it’s a surprisingly complex movement that can only be achieved AFTER proper mobility, stability and motor-control are in place. But even after those components are in place, it can be difficult to master the squat movement pattern. Additional time and training is likely needed to retrain an individual on how to properly perform a squat, even after correcting any underlying movement compensations or dysfunctions that may have been present. This is what movement pattern retraining is all about – helping an individual to accomplish more complex movements after correcting underlying problems.

This type of training reinforces all of the components of movement that are needed in order to help perform more complex movements. Movement pattern retraining incorporates pain-free repetition and reactive drills to ensure appropriate conditioning of the newly learned pattern of movement. Without this final conditioning step, the new motor patterns would not become automatic enough to create a healthy habit of efficient movement.

Corrective Exercise Bridges The Gap Between Fitness And Pain Rehab

When it comes to pain, our bodies are intuitive and intelligent. Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. Think of it as the check engine light of the body. Often times we try to distract ourselves from the pain, ignore it completely, or try to find the quickest fix possible so we can move on with our lives.

Speaking from a clinical massage and exercise specialist stand point, it is far too common that I see practitioners focusing on the pain symptoms instead of the cause. At The Anatomy of Wellness, we focus on the whole body so we can appropriately treat the causes of your pain instead of just the symptoms.

Corrective exercise FMS screenings are an effective tool we use that helps to identify possible causes of faulty movement patterns that might be contributing to pain and/or injury. If any pain is identified within the movement screening, further assessment will be necessary for a specific treatment plan to be prescribed. Be sure to sign up for your FMS screening with us today!

But as a general rule in pain relief treatment, corrective exercise focuses on improving form and quality of movement versus external overload. This is a key component in strength training fitness programs. Pain-free movement relies on building and conditioning a solid foundation of efficient mobility, stability, and motor control before progressing to traditional strength training in a regular fitness program. If you are experiencing pain, then implementing a corrective exercise treatment program will be a game-changer for your pain relief and long-term wellness.

functional movement screen

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