Katherine Mullen, MS, DC
Many of us spend most of the hours of our days sitting, whether it’s while at work, sitting in class or relaxing after a long day. Due to being stuck in a flexed position for extended periods of time, our hips take the brunt of the biomechanical changes. Over time the musculature of our hips develop an imbalance between synergistic muscles. More specifically, the hip flexors become shortened and tight while our glutes become overstretched and weak. This relationship causes our pelvis to dip forward, resulting in an anterior pelvic tilt, which limits the ability of our hips to move in all 3 planes of motion. An anterior pelvic tilt causes the lower part of the spine to extend, forcing the low back to compensate. When a joint in the body becomes stuck and does not move, the structure above and below have to become more mobile to make up for the lack of mobility. In this case, the low back becomes more mobile, ultimately giving up it’s stability to make up for the lack of mobility in the hip. This increase in mobility and lack of stability causes low back pain, something many athletes face on a day to day basis.
An important concept to consider when thinking about mobility, specifically of the hip, is something called “functional joint centration.” Joint centration is a concept regarding the relationship between the joint’s bony alignment, muscular tension, and neurological coordination. This relationship will determine the stability and mechanical efficiency of the joint. If you have proper joint centration, the result is, specifically the hip in this example, will have the most mechanical advantage and force output which is key for increasing speed. Also, when a joint is centrated forces are distributed properly across the joint and decrease the amount of load that is put on the joint of focus as well as the other joints within the kinetic chain. This means your hips and lower back will stop receiving excessive loads when your joints are properly centrated and your synergistic muscles have a balance of a push/pull relationship. The benefits of functional joint centration, according to Pavel Kolar and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization, also known as DNS, include improvements to sport performance, balanced joint loading, decreased load on ligaments, and decreased injury overall.
By focusing on improving hip mobility, it can lead to both an increase in range of motion and reduction in injuries while improving overall performance. This doesn’t mean you just need to stretch the muscles that are tight. It means that specific exercises that challenge the hip joint and optimally centrate it should be implemented into the daily routine. If you are interested in improving your hip mobility and need help with where to start, schedule an appointment with one of our providers to walk you through a few exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine!
Katherine Mullen, DC, MS is a chiropractic physician with a masters in sports medicine. She has a special interest in the treatment of athletes through chiropractic and rehabilitative care. She is also certified to perform pre-participation physical exams (PPEs). Stay connected with Dr. Mullen on Instagram @washparkchiro or @katherinemullen