We’ve all seen the disclaimer on the exercise videos or the newest home gym that more or less reads: “Consult your healthcare provider before beginning this or any other kind of workout…” It’s your run-of-the-mill liability disclaimer and is usually suggesting that there is risk involved in physical activity and you should be checked for any medical indication that you shouldn’t be participating in this activity. Does anyone really ever consult their doctor before beginning a workout plan? Ok, I’m sure some do. If you did, you would surely be checked for any cardiovascular complications that could limit your activity and the doctor might perform a brief physical exam to check for range of motion and any pain in the extremities. Barring anything too serious, you’d be given a clean bill of health to begin your high intensity home exercise videos, your Bun-master, a Zumba class, etc.
Let’s say you get your clean bill of health, begin your workout, and somewhere along the way develop back pain, or shoulder pain. Did your doctor’s exam give you any indication that this might happen? Probably not, and here’s why. Your general medicine doc or internist are experts at the physical exam – as taught at medical school. You can trust them to pick up on potential cardiovascular issues, but if you are going from sedentary to exercising at a moderate intensity, you will be moving your body in ways it hasn’t moved in a long time. Your body doesn’t move like it used to, and as a result of a sedentary lifestyle, previous injuries, deconditioning, excess weight, poor posture, etc, your body has learned to compensate in order to get through your daily routine. When you go to the gym or do your home workout with your limited range of motion, poor movement patterns and compensations, your body will do what it takes to get the job done, but it might be at the cost of safety of the muscles and joints that are asked to do the job.
Here’s an example of what I’m trying to explain. Let’s say you go to a group exercise class and the instructor has you put a bar on your back and start squatting. The squat is a very good exercise and an important movement to master. It is something toddlers are great at, yet as we get older and more sedentary we lose the ability to squat safely and efficiently. If your glutes aren’t firing well, your knees will cave in. If your hips are stiff, or hamstrings tight, your low back will bend when your hips hit their limit. If your ankles are stiff, your heels will come off the floor or you’ll turn your feet out. These are all compensations, and possible ways to develop knee pain or low back pain while squatting. The devil is in the details, and these are details that might not be caught by your general practitioner.
For that reason I believe that the medical disclaimers that come with workout equipment and exercise routines should encourage you to consult with a movement specialist as well. What is a movement specialist, you ask? A number of people can serve as a movement specialist to identify your inefficiencies and injury potential: Chiropractors (of course!), physical therapists, and personal trainers. These are all professionals who have been trained to spot poor movement patterns and prescribe exercises and stretches to improve how you move and help prevent injury as you begin your exercise plan. If you have questions about what kind of exercises you should or should not be doing and want to learn more about how to move better and safer, contact us at (503) 526-8782. Dr. Thompson has undergone post-graduate training in movement assessment and corrective exercise prescription and would be glad to help you on your way to a healthier you!