3 Areas Where We See Restricted Movement in Patients
We have reviewed some cardiovascular related health numbers in our last two blogs, but today we will change gears and focus on some musculoskeletal and balance related norms.
There are a multitude of joints in the body and each one has several different motions that it should be able to perform. I am not going to bore you with explaining the motions of each joint and giving you proper measures for every joint in the body; however, we will focus on a few key areas that tend to be restricted in many people.
Hamstring tightness is one of the most common issues I see in patients. Your hamstrings run along the back of your thigh spanning from your buttocks to your knee. When this muscle group is tight, it can cause various issues including hip, knee, and often back pain. Normal hamstring flexibility falls within the 70-90 degree range meaning that when you are lying on your back and raise your leg up as high as it can go while keeping the knee straight, your hip should be bent to a 70-90 degree angle. A simple solution for the problem of tightness in the hamstring is to STRETCH. There are several different methods of stretching the hamstrings and depending on other ailments like back or knee pain you may have to adjust the method you use. If you are having trouble with finding a good stretch that does not aggravate other symptoms, contact your physical therapist for assistance.
Another common deficit that I see is weakness along the shoulder blades. Typically the top muscle along your shoulder blade (upper trapezius) which helps to hike your shoulder toward your ear is not weak. The weakness is usually in the muscle that holds your shoulder blade downward (lower trapezius) while you are doing overhead or lifting work. Physical therapists rate strength on a 0-5 scale. If you have a 5/5 strength level, then you have no muscle strength deficits. I don’t expect you to know your level of strength on this scale unless you have been formally assessed, but you can tell if you have weakness in these lower shoulder blade muscles by how difficult it is to keep your shoulder blades held downward while you try to lift a weighted object overhead. There are several different exercises that your physical therapist can give you to help improve strength in these muscles.
A third area that commonly has deficits, especially in the older population, is balance. One test known as the single leg stance test tends to be particularly difficult. For this test an individual attempts to stand on one leg for as long as possible before having to place his/her foot down or grab onto something. The test can be perform with the eyes open or closed. The expected length of time that a person can hold this position varies based on age. If you want to find out if your ability is within the normal range, click here.
In this particular test, participants unable to stand on one leg for at least five seconds are at increased risk for a fall resulting in injury. There are various other balance tests that a physical therapist may perform which also correlate with a person’s level of balance and risk for falling. If you are concerned about possible balance deficits or have a fear of falling, contact your physical therapist for an assessment.