Recent scientific research suggests that many types of pain can be explained by a loss of proprioception and neuromuscular coordination - a loss of our movement repertoire. At the neuromuscular level, this movement repertoire integrates the connections between the kinesis system - the system that allows us to identify our body's position in space - and the motor system that directs movement. In the case of this movement repertoire, we can quote a popular Chinese expression:
"If you don't use it, you lose it.
Since the daily life of the vast majority of people is roughly summarized in three types of positions - sitting, standing and lying down, every day we lose some of this repertoire. Unless our sport or work requires us to choose more varied positions, the vast majority of people actively avoid any other position out of habit and laziness.
In addition, most endurance sports involve only small amplitudes and little variability within them, so they only serve to amplify the problem by stimulating some movements at the expense of others.
In order to prevent the loss of movement repertoire and minimize the associated risks, we have implemented a facet of our training system that we call movement hygiene. Since we are looking for range of motion and coordination in these sessions, they incorporate a greater variety of movements than most training sessions, but they generate little to no fatigue. Also, much like dental hygiene, movement hygiene must be done on a regular basis to be effective.
Many sports cultures as well as traditional medicine systems dedicate a lot of time to activities that could be considered movement hygiene exercises. Although they may attribute other benefits to these exercises, Tai-Chi, QiGong, traditional yoga, calisthenics, and any warm-up exercises for martial arts or dance could be categorized as movement hygiene.
These are movements that require large joint amplitudes and good coordination, but that produce little fatigue.
In the model we use with our athletes and clients, we suggest a daily investment of between 15 and 20 minutes for movement hygiene. The sessions require little effort, as their purpose is to improve and maintain range of motion and coordination within those ranges. The vast majority of the exercises we recommend require no equipment, so these sessions can be performed at home before breakfast, as a warm-up for a workout, or before going to bed at night. We practice between 3 and 5 movements per day in these sessions and the exercises are changed regularly to maximize the stimulation of the somatosensory system.
15 to 20 minutes a day, three to five movements, lots of variety...
With the athletes and sportsmen we follow in physical preparation, we integrate this first level of fitness as the recurring basis of their more specialized training program for the sport. For some clients who live with chronic pain, it is this part of the training that makes all the difference in their daily well-being. If you would like to learn more about our techniques or for specific advice, please feel free to contact us through our social media accounts or live through our website at www.cliniquehph.com.
Sébastien Boucher for the HPH Sports Clinic