Each of us is built a little differently—maybe you’ve got one leg that’s longer than the other; maybe the right side of your pelvis is rotated in a way that causes chronic lower back pain. It might seem that no matter what you are doing, you experience some type of discomfort that interferes with your daily life. So, how do we intervene if these are the cards we’re dealt or, on the other hand, if these are the habits we’ve formed over time? Here are some steps to get you on the right track so you can continue to crush your fitness game and keep doing what you love.
“Think of your body as a house,” says Patrick Estes at Train. Adapt. Evolve (TAE). If the foundation of your “house” is off-kilter or cracked, imagine the problems you may face. Estes and Aaron Davis (two sports performance coaches whose expertise lie in evaluating athletes’ internal physiology, movement, and mobility) begin by evaluating the “blueprint,” or in this sense, the body at rest. Starting with the feet, they examine the body from the ground up, efficiently analyzing stature and gait. Through a series of assessments, Estes and Davis are able to identify the problem and its source, and devise a plan to intervene and solve the problem.
For all intents and purposes, we’ll focus on two of the most common issues that Estes and Davis see in clients (problems that many of us face, whether we are aware of it or not!) According to the guys at TAE, functional leg length discrepancy and hypermobility are two recurrent deficiencies that clients often complain about. Simply put, functional leg length discrepancy is when one leg is longer than the other, while hypermobility is the ability to extend your joints easily beyond the normal range of motion. Contacting professionals, like those at TAE, and receiving an evaluation can lead you to identifying deficiencies that are holding you back.
According to Estes and Davis, functional leg length discrepancy may occur for any number of reasons. Structural imbalances and developmental influences can play a major role in the deficiency; this issue can also result from trying to adapt to our environment around us against gravity. More often than not, however, the pelvic structure is to blame. Any rotation, be it an anterior tilt or an external or internal rotation of either side of the pelvis, can cause a functional leg length discrepancy.
Hypermobility, on the other hand, often occurs due to poor connective tissue structure and muscle tone and can be caused by a continuous repetition of incorrect dynamic movement, says Estes. If this is how we’re built, or these are the poor habits that are deep-rooted to our core, are we doomed for a lifetime of injury and pain? Not necessarily…
Moving forward, to help fix the issues that come along with common issues like functional leg length discrepancy and hypermobility, it’s important to stabilize and improve the position of the pelvis. To do so, we must first inhibit specific muscle groups that hold the pelvis in asymmetrical position or “turn off the muscles that are constantly firing,” as Estes says. Then, activate the specific muscle groups that hold the pelvis in neutral position or “turn on the muscles that’ve been slacking.” And finally, integrate those specific muscle groups into more proprioceptive environments.
It’s no easy feat to change a lifestyle of bad habits—it takes avid awareness and conscious effort to change for the better. But once you do, you’ll find you’ve discovered the key to boost your fitness performance and live a happier, healthier, more comfortable life.