Top 5 Fridays! 5 Myths About Spinal Flexion | Modern Manual Therapy Blog - Manual Therapy, Videos, Neurodynamics, Podcasts, Research Reviews

Top 5 Fridays! 5 Myths About Spinal Flexion

I am tired of hearing lumbar flexion will "blow out a disc." Yes it happens, but for some reason it's an epidemic like tight hamstrings. The body in amazingly resilient and designed to move. Just a few short days of immobilization and the representation of that body part in the brain is now blurred, and prone to motor control dysfunction. We encourage people with knee pain to move all the time and certainly don't say, "Hey, quit bending your knee and stiffen your quads, otherwise you'll blow out a meniscus!" Here are 5 Myths About Spinal Flexion.

1) It’s bad for you
  • sure there is research showing x amount of thousands of reps causes annular tears, etc etc 
  • that’s obvious, you know what else fails after thousands of stressful continuous reps of bending? EVERYTHING! 
  • variability is the name of the game, keep moving but vary it, in life, and in training and things tend not to break down 
  • if we do not tell patients or our fitness clients to stop bending their hips and knees, we shouldn’t really promote a rigid core for every single activity, the spine is designed and built to bend (and rotate for that matter) 
2) Disc issues cause pain
  • expanding on the failure of disc annular walls, sure it happens 
  • in fact, depending on the study, it may be in 50-80% of pain free individuals in their cervical or lumbar spines 
  • these protrusions, if symptomatic can be reduced in the lumbar spine under certain conditions with repeated loading strategies 
  • if there are symptomatic fragments or herniations, not to worry, often they spontaneously absorb within several months, that’s certainly a better option than irreversible surgery that fails more than 50% of the time 
3) Flexion provides movement variability
  • certain schools of thought often quote “flexion provides movement variability”
  • it does not if you’re doing it thousands of times a day (average person flexes a few thousand times/day) 
  • neither does extension, or ANY OTHER SINGLE MOVEMENT 
  • the only thing that provides movement variability is movement variability - weird, huh? 
4) Hard abdominal bracing is the safest way to move
  • there are certainly better, safer, and more efficient strategies to lift heavy things, swing kettlebells, etc 
  • however, when certain experts educate that a high threshold bracing strategy is the best way to do simple tasks like open doors, that defeats the purpose and may cause increased kinesiophobia 
  • the best way to keep a joint/area of the body healthy is with varied movement 
5) Everyone should be able to touch their toes prior to performance 
  • a lot of these hard rules go back to common sense 
  • sure, toe touches are a great screen for a flexion pattern mobility 
  • however, as long as you’re relatively close, and there is no significant perception of tightness or pain in any area of the body under stress in a flexion pattern, that should suffice for most movements 
  • some people due to bony abnormalities - see this post by The Movement Fix will not have the ability to have full hip ROM 
  • same goes for other areas of the body, but it seems more common in the hips 
Use the same principles for the spine as you do for extremities. Promote movement, educate to decrease kinesiophobia. Use gentle terms and Stop Thought Viruses.

Interested in live cases where I apply this approach and integrate it with pain science, manual therapy, repeated motions, IASTM, with emphasis on patient education? Check out Modern Manual Therapy!

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