When some people think of mobility class, one of the first words that come to mind is pain. Often they’ve heard something, from someone, who knows someone, who saw a session, and there might have been someone who either complained that something hurt, or yelled in a moment of discomfort… Ok, maybe there were curse words, but guaranteed there was laughing too. So, what is “mobility”? How is it different from “stretching”? And why the hell does it hurt?!
Ok, let’s address this whole pain thing first. Can there be discomfort or pain associated with mobility? Yes. However, several factors can determine the level of comfort or discomfort a person feels. One is the degree of trauma in the area; another is how long the distortions have been in the person’s body. Long-term distortions create more tenacious and widespread compensatory patterns, which may require more time and effort to re-mobilize. In short, the pain has primarily to do with the extent of the injury, and the duration in which it’s gone without treatment. Ok, so then what is “mobility”?
When we’re talking mobility, we’re referring to the ability to move a limb through the full range of motion WITH CONTROL. Sports, recreational activities and other daily physical practices can result in reduced range of movement in any participating joint. When the joint is unable to move through its full range it becomes “compromised”. When compromised movement is present in a joint, surrounding joints take up the slack, creating extra stress all around. Mobility work reduces the potential body imbalances inherent in our athletic and recreational pursuits. Now what makes it different from “stretching”?
In mobility we primarily focus on the fascia (the sheath-like connective tissue that surrounds and binds muscles together). Fascia is stubborn material, and breaking up knots and scar tissue along tendons and ligaments can be tough. This is accomplished by relaxing contracted muscles, increasing circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex of muscles and overlying fascia with a constant force/pressure until the tissue releases.
In short, be it working out or playing outside, mobility work helps you continue to do the things you enjoy doing. Can it hurt, yes, but this is directly related to the extent you use or have over used the muscles, and how long you’ve gone without treating the problem. The amazing thing is, with only hours a week, one can just about reverse days/months/years worth of damage or trauma.