The Joy of Pain Free Movement

Your bum sticks out, you have a forward head posture and your calves hurt. Are they linked?

You bet your inflexible sticking out butt they are.

The joy of movement, in my opinion, is the ability to:

  • Stick an arm in the air and reach for something on the top shelf of the cupboard

  • Run without causing lower back, hip, knee or ankle pain.

  • Playing with my daughter on the floor, crawling around with her and helping her to explore the world

  • Do any kind of exercise without fear of pain

Movement is something we often take for granted but it can be taken away in the blink of an eye through an accident or simply waking up one day with a crick neck, unable to drive and popping pain killers like they’re sweets.

Does your day look like this?

  • Sitting for breakfast, checking emails and social media

  • Sitting in the car/bus/train, checking emails, playing games or reading a book

  • Working at a desk, checking emails, writing spreadsheets and inputting data

  • More of the same going home

  • More of the same once you get home but with TV, cooking and chores too

All of those involve a lot of sitting.

There is not a huge amount of different types movement in that day. A lot of sitting and generally being hunched over a desk or mobile phone for on average 9.5 hours per day (1)

The Gym

The gym is a place you go to relieve stress, burn off a few extra calories, build and strengthen muscles....there must be benefits here.

Well, yes and no.

When we eventually make it to the gym we invariably use machines that often get us sitting down again and only moving in limited ways - even if you are lifting free weights they are very commonly only lifting up and down - very little complicated (multi-planar) movement.

Not only that but the muscles that we are trying to strengthen on the machine are so tired and overworked at the end of the day that they don’t have a chance to work correctly, even with a good warm up.

Or, we get on a treadmill after sitting down all day and just expect our hip flexors and glute muscles to know exactly what to do even through you haven’t used them since the last time you were at the gym.

These sitting (or standing) positions, or lack of positions, that you hold yourself in, for long periods of time build a habit.

The habit becomes engrained in your muscle memory and, in turn, becomes normal.

So, your normal posture could include any or all these:

A common bad posture - aka "upper cross syndrome" or "text-neck"

  • Butt sticking out when you stand i.e. sitting position (short hip flexors and long glutes which are often both weak due to lack of use)

  • Shoulders rounded from sitting at a desk, manual labour (Short and weak abdominals; Short Pecs and long rhomboids)

  • A forward head position from looking down at screens (shortened anterior neck muscles and lengthened upper spinal muscles)

  • Muscles at the back of the upper neck, at the very base of the skull, then must pull the head into a tilt so that when you are walking around, you can look forwards.

All in all, our daily lives nowadays are not varied enough:

we aren’t climbing trees,

crawling through long grass

and hunting antelope with nothing but our teeth and a sharp stick.

Movement and Pain

This brings me on nicely to movement and pain. A body that can move freely and without limitations is one that is generally more pain free – certainly in the long term.

A body that is inhibited and has limited joint mobility – and this annoys me immensely – is frequently without pain but only if certain movements are avoided.

But, if push came to shove and that limited person had to do something that was outside of their normal habits, it would be likely that something would either break, hurt or would simply be unable to do it.

Everyone’s body likes to be safe, feel safe and be within its comfort zone. There is no pain or discomfort in a comfort zone which is great.

Everyone’s zone is different and that’s ok if you aren’t in pain and are able to do all of the things that you want to be able to do.

The problem I have with this is:

1. You might not be in pain but what is happening to your body?

2. How are you going to be in 10/20/30/50 years?

3. Will you be bent over double, unable to lift your arms, pick up your grandchildren, hold a mug, struggle to walk?

4. When do you worry about that, now or later?

Do you want to worry about that now while you’re more able to do something about it.


Do you worry about it in 30 years and you’re struggling with regular pain?

Either way, it is probably still treatable in 30 years, it’s just going to be a longer recovery, may well involve surgery and be a lot more time consuming to get fixed.

Movement and the Brain<