Functional Rehabilitation

What is Functional Rehabilitation?

Real life movement (functional movement) is based in patterns, like squatting or walking, not single muscle actions such as bicep curls or leg extensions. When assessing pain, it is essential to look at these patterns as a whole rather than isolated movements because a joint could function perfectly in isolation but not when linked to a real-life pattern. The functional movement approach was designed to complement the existing physical and chiropractic examinations. It serves as a model to efficiently and effectively integrate posture, muscle balance and fundamental patterns of movement. Many components comprise pain-free functional movement including adequate posture, range of motion, muscle performance, motor control and balance. Impairment in one component could potentially alter functional movement, resulting in pain and discomfort.


Mobility is the ability of a joint to express its full range of motion without tightness or pain. Mobility problems (muscle tightness, inflexibility) are movement dysfunctions which can be caused by poor posture, repetitive improper movement, poorly managed injury, physical/emotional stress or ineffective stability. Stability is the ability to maintain or control joint movement position. Stability problems are also movement dysfunctions which can be cause by poor posture, repetitive improper movement, poorly manage injury and lack of mobility in surrounding joints. The body an essentially be looked at as a chain in which each link is a joint. Each joint or series of joints is designed for a specific function, mobility or stability, and is prone to a fairly predictable set of dysfunctions. When looking at the chain of joints, it can be seen that the joints actually alternate between mobility and stability. The ankle needs mobility, knee stability, hip mobility, low back stability, mid/upper back mobility, shoulder blade stability and shoulder mobility.

Traditional chiropractic and massage therapy are great for addressing problems with mobility; however, they both lack the proper assessment, diagnosis and treatment of stability problems. When stability is not addressed in conjunction with mobility, we tend to see short-term improvements in pain after a treatment but no real long-term resolution of the pain. For example, people with chronic low back pain and instability may develop tightness in the hips and hamstrings to help account for the lack of stability in the low back. In this case, mobility is decreased in the hips to maintain an overall function throughout the entire body. Most practitioners will adjust/release the low back which already has too much mobility and then release the tight hips which are the body’s way of compensating for the lack of stability in the low back. So by only addressing mobility, we end up destabilizing the entire system and perpetuating the low back pain. Some common patterns we tend to see are: poor ankle mobility causing knee pain, poor hip mobility causing low back pain, poor mid/upper mobility causing neck pain.

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