| Article written on December 26th, 2015 at 11:27am | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
One of my favorite practices is to reflect back on the past year to get a sense of how I have changed, or unfortunately remained the same. Growth is essential to become better from a personal and professional standpoint, but oftentimes we don’t evaluate our progress enough. Here are some things I learned in 2015:
1. Collaboration is key.
We can all accomplish things on our own, but teaming up will get you there in much less time with possibly a better result. This is especially true when it comes to the health of a client/patient. Which ones would see quicker results with a professional who specializes in their injury or fitness goal? We are all good at a variety of things, but sometimes it’s better to seek the advice of someone who is great at one thing.
2. Inhibition vs. Weakness.
I have spoken to clients on a weakly basis about this specific topic alone. Just because something tests weak, doesn’t mean that it is weak. Makes absolutely no sense right? It actually does! Muscles not only need to be strong, but properly controlled/activated by the nervous system. In the human body we have specific relationships, where one muscle is facilitated (over-activated), another will be inhibited (under-activated). These under-activated muscles often test as being weak. We can’t just strengthen inhibited muscles and assume it will automatically function better. Properly diagnosing weakness vs. inhibition is the first step, before applying the correct intervention to fix the issue. Here is past article I wrote on the subject.
3. We need to look more at the system then the individual parts.
If the knee hurts, there must be something wrong with the knee, correct? I guess that’s true now, but maybe it’s only a symptom of an underlying issue. This is true anywhere. We can’t treat, stretch, or strengthen isolated areas and expect issues to magically resolve. Recently, I had a young lady who was complaining of deep calf pain. After looking at the system, we found out she had inhibition in her same side glute. Was the pain in her calf present as a result of overworking muscles due to faulty firing of the glute? We could work the calf all day with therapy, and exercises, but how about we treat the calf to reduce pain and focus our attention on the glute.
4. “Squeeze your shoulders blades back and down,” is being over-emphasized.
It’s human nature to function in extremes. We either do things too much or not at all, this is a problem. When it comes to upper body exercises, we don’t always need to squeeze the shoulder blades back and down. This is especially true when those exercises are above 90 degrees, such as overhead pressing. The scapula requires stability, but also the freedom to move throughout it’s range of motion. When we constantly lock the shoulder blades into a position and facilitate depression and downward rotation, we lose the freedom of movement that the scapula requires. Scapulohumeral rhythm is a term that describes the motion of the scapula during elevation of the arm. As the arm lifts overhead, the scapula needs to upwardly rotate to accommodate enough joint space to function optimally. But, if we are always squeezing our shoulder blades back and down, overhead motions can’t be carried out properly.
5. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Sometimes we hold ourselves back more then we need to. Let your voice be heard and educate others. There’s always that thought of, “Am I good enough to do this?” You don’t start growing until you put yourself in uncomfortable situations and overcome what you once thought was an obstacle. Notice how I said “what you once thought was an obstacle?“ Our obstacles are typically self-imposed limitations that we place on ourselves. “Believe in yourself, and others will believe in you.” – Unknown.
6. Surround yourself with people better then you.
I am a firm believer in the saying that we are the average of the 5 people we hang around with. This can suck to learn sometimes. Are the people around you making you better or holding you back? Our choices and acquaintances shape who we are as a person. Find those that make you better and move on from those who tear you down, plain and simple.
7. An integrative approach of Active Release Techniques (ART) and functional training can yield strong benefits.
What we need to realize is that we are all messed up to some degree. Whether it’s tightness and limited range of motion, or poor balance and stability. With that being said, additional hands-on work can go a long way. To approach movement from a therapy and function standpoint is getting two for the price of one. I have always believed that my therapy sessions needed to end with some type of movement training to engrain these changes within the nervous system to allow for long-term change. Why not look at this from the other perspective… My functional training clients can also greatly benefit from hands-on therapy to supplement their session and enhance the quality and efficiency of movement. As Gray Cook says, “Move well, then move often.” Let’s improve quality where we can and then spend the time putting it into motion. In 2016, I will be combining my skills to be more integrative. Click here to read a recent article on the combined approach.
8. Evaluating pelvic positioning is essential in everyone.
One thing I started to look more consistently into is pelvic positioning. This means evaluating pelvic rotation and upslip/downslip. These dysfunctions can go overlooked in lower extremity and spine issues. Therefore, I made it a priority to check it in the majority of clients I worked with. What I noticed was that most people had some type pelvic malalignment that needed to be corrected. This is exactly why we need to evaluate all areas that can be involved, even if they are not in close proximity to the pain-site.
9. Less is more.
I’m a big believer of providing the smallest stimulus possible to obtain the desired result. If one Advil clears up your headache, why take 3? It’s hard fighting human nature where we believe more of a good thing will yield an even better thing. We often get to a point when more could actually make things worse. I definitely find this true with ART and exercise. If one pass through the tissue provides the increase in range of motion I was looking for, then that’s it for today. Let’s see how you respond and adjust next session. The same goes for exercise. Finding someone’s ability level and meeting them there. Yes, most people can complete excessive amounts of exercise and make it through the session. But, will they bounce back quick enough for your next session and be able to walk up and down stairs without hating you? At what point is more not better?
10. Breathing has a huge influence on nervous system function, muscle tone, and joint motion.
I got to dive a little deeper into breathing and specifically diaphragm function this past year. I had the pleasure of attending RockTape’s FMT Level 1 and 2 with Perry Nickelston in Nashville, where he outlined breathing patterns, self-diaphragm release methods, and taping to restore proper breathing. I’m still only scratching the surface and know more continuing education is needed in this area. But, It’s safe to say breathing has been an overlooked function on my part. This underlying system has such a strong influence on other areas, including nervous system drive, muscle tone, and joint range of motion. I remember specifically working on a woman and trying to improve shoulder internal rotation. We got to a point where there were no more improvements. A release of the diaphragm with a 90/90 breathing drill, and the shoulder melted into better internal rotation. So easy in fact, that she said, “did you just see that?” My goal for 2016 is to become better at evaluating and improving breathing quality.
11. Dig deeper, not wider.
I was recommended Tony Robbins from a mentor of mine and found invaluable information that he has written. Tony is obviously very well-known, but I haven’t pursued his content as much as I should have. Oftentimes, we have to dig deeper to uncover what matters most to us, rather then expand ourselves and business wider in order to grow and be more successful. Once you dig deep and find your true calling, everything else becomes easy. This concept is true not only in business, but in life. Weight loss, new year’s resolutions, health, finances, relationships, it doesn’t matter what you apply it to. Many people work on such meaningless goals such as weight loss and appearance, and get there only to realize they are the same, unhappy person they were previously. Uncovering the meaning from within accounts for 80% of your success. The other 20% is strategy. It’s common to focus on that 20%, but if it isn’t aimed at your true meaning you’ll achieve things that lead you no closer to true happiness. Dig deep, find your true meaning, and strive to be great.
12. ART has some strong mojo.
As I hit my 2 year mark of practicing ART, I realize it has more value then I first envisioned. They say it takes 2 years to become truly proficient with your touch. The last 6 months have proved to be my best with this technique. I have treated a little bit of everything over these 2 years from toes to finger tips and everything in between. People who can barely lift their arms away from their body, to guitarists with unrelenting forearm/hand pain. As I unwind and work through different soft-tissue structures, alongside nerves, and into joints, it becomes apparent that I still don’t fully understand the true mechanism of manual therapy (as I don’t think everyone does). Adhesions and scar tissue are palpable, but is it the breaking up of these things that provide excellent results, or is it the influence on the nervous system that manual touch provides? Regardless, the changes being made are impactful and long lasting. I look back and honestly feel bad for some of the athletes I treated before doing ART. Those injuries that took months to resolve are now much less of a problem. With that being said, I am a believer that all manual therapy needs to be combined with movement. The nervous system is like the hard drive of your computer. We can’t plug in a new mouse and not turn on the computer. Let’s turn on the computer and allow it to recognize the improvements. Movement following therapy will ingrain changes. Therefore, ART alone is one piece of the puzzle.
As I sit here with the text cue flashing, I know there is much more than I included above. I’d love to hear what things you learned in 2015. Did you take steps in a positive direction or sit back comfortably as things around you happened? Please leave a comment below or on Facebook with how your year went.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART