I recently listened to a teleconference with Dr. Shirley Sahrmann, a leading expert on movement syndromes. She is an amazing woman, with a career spanning over 5 decades, and is forward thinking in terms of rehabilitation and treatment of various movement impairments. During her talk, she said she thinks physical therapists should be like the dentist. You should see them once a year, for a movement "check-up." The therapist will analyze movement patterns, assess areas that should be watched, and prescribe a corrective exercise program to address "problem areas." While she didn't specify, I imagine the corrective exercise program would be up to the patient (kind of like flossing), and if an area needed more attention, a follow-up appointment would be recommended. She suggested this start as a child (again, like the dentist), and be done annually.
I thought this was a brilliant idea for a number of reasons. First, it would make focused exercise part of a person's routine, under the pretense that it would improve posture, movement habits, and possibly prevent serious injury later in life. For some, it might lead to greater amounts of movement, something we desperately need. Second, if people actually did the exercises they were supposed to (this is kind of like flossing- some would, most wouldn't), people might be able to prevent anterior head tilt, upper crossed syndrome, and lower crossed syndrome, particularly if good habits were developed as a child. While little research has been done on posture and its relation to injury, there is no denying certain soft tissue problems that arise as a result of something as innocuous as anterior head tilt (tension headaches, anyone?). If people had less pain, they might be more likely to move. Again, this would be fantastic! Generally speaking, the more movement, the better. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but that is not the topic of this blog. Finally, athletes at all levels would have dysfunctional movement patterns identified by a professional, preventing some of the frequent overuse injuries common in junior, elite, and master athletes. This might (and this is a big might), change the way strength and conditioning coaches design "one size fits all" strength programs that over-emphasize certain muscle groups and under-emphasize others. And even if these types of programs were still being implemented, at least the athlete could supplement with an individualized corrective exercise program.
While this approach is a long way off and might never happen, the idea is worth further examination. I think that having someone assess and provide a home corrective exercise program done on a regular basis would allow people to continue doing the exercises they enjoy into advanced age with fewer injuries. For the people who currently do no exercise, a regular home corrective exercise program would increase body awareness and perhaps allow exercise to seep into other areas of their life. Remember: you are unique. Your exercise program should be too.
Yours in health and wellness,