Many blame their age for loss of balance, coordination, and general ease of movement. But often I find the issue is more about how the brain is telling the body to move, and not the age, strength, or flexibility of the body itself. In other words, it’s more of a software matter, rather than the age of their hardware.
We all have movement programs, aka motor patterns, set aside in the auto-pilot part of our brains. For instance, you probably no longer think to focus while tying your shoe laces.
But very common occurrences can disrupt and subtly change your motor patterns. This can happen multiple times over the course of your life. Even if you workout in a gym everyday, these fragmented and re-organized movement patterns can add up to less coordinated movement, loss of balance, and uneven wear on your joints.
Common Triggers to Movement Pattern Disruption:
Previous Injury or Surgery: Injuries heal. However, bits of the compensations the brain organized to avoid the injury, like limping or using crutches, might remain in your brain’s auto-pilot program for “walk.”
Chronic or Non-Specific Pain: Sometimes pain can be chronic, meaning the pain remains even after the injury itself has healed. Weeding out the compensations that help you avoid pain from those that might create more issues could be beneficial.
Pregnancy: This one isn't so subtle! Mothers know that they were walking differently during the third and the post-birth “fourth trimester.”
Athletic or Dance Training: Most sports have specialized and repetitive motions. When athletes stop or retire, they can hold on to these specialized motions even when they are no longer advantageous.
Former Fashionistas: Your motor patterns change when wearing high heels, and might stick with you when making the switch to flats.
Convalescing or a Sedentary Lifestyle: As everyday movements like walking, stair climbing, and overhead reaching become more foreign and challenging, the brain will deploy compensations to get whatever movement it can.
High levels of Stress, Anxiety, or Depression: Transient moods are reflected in our posture and body language. But crisis can temporarily change our body awareness and proprioception. Those changes can help us get through the crisis, but long periods of stress allow for these changes to become habituated.
The Good News
The good news is you can change and improve your automatic patterns!
Physical bodies are different, and everyone has their personal history of compensations. At PIVOT, we specialize in private sessions to help optimize your personal movement. Whether you workout everyday or shy away from movement due to arthritis or joint replacement, upgrading your movement software can help you restore balance, coordination, and ease of movement to your life.
To book a Restorative Exercise session at our Union Square studio, click here.