You engage in repetitive movements all day long. Just like someone who types at a desk all day, or who sits in a car all day, or who does manual labor that is a repeat of the same 3 movements every day all day.
Do Repetitive Movements Lead To Injury?
Repetitive movements cause you to overuse one movement pattern, and by default, underuse other ones.
But this does not mean anything done repetitively is inherently ‘bad.’
Instead, consider that you can absolutely partake in repetitive movements — so long as you also do the work to support those repetitive, overused movements.
This is true of any activity you do in your life. Not just desk work, and not just new-parent work. You must always be supporting the repetitive, overused movements
So what does it look like to support your repetitive, overused movement patterns?
How To Support Repetitive Movements
To avoid the impact of repetitive and over used movement patterns, you must create a support system. By doing this, you ensure you’ll be able to use those movements for years to come — and avoid any potential strains and injuries in the process.
Below is a list of four methods for supporting your repetitive movements, whatever they may be.
1. Pay Attention To The Movement Pattern You’re Doing Repetitively
From tapping into your willpower, to knowing when and how hard to push yourself, to knowing that you spend a fair amount of time with your shoulders slumped as you type away at your work station – you cannot change a behavior until you are aware of it.
It can be as simple as this: when you notice the aches creep in, take note of what you were doing earlier in the day.
You may not understand “why” the aches creep in, but you understand that they are happening. Now you can begin the search for your answers.
As you start exploring possible solutions the “why” will show up, but don’t worry if you’re not up for reading a bunch of science journals – understanding the “why” doesn’t impact the effects of the solution you use. If you want to geek out on explanations of why something works, cool, but don’t let it be a hurdle to feeling better if you don’t.
2. Be Aware Of When You DON’T Need To Use That Movement Pattern
You can avoid repetitive strain by using mindfulness to actively avoid repetitive, overused movement patterns in times of your day when they are not required.
Here’s the deal.
A friend of mine has a baby, and she spends hours each day holding him, carrying him, feeding him, rocking him, and so on…
She is in similar positions doing all of those things, arms tucked up holding the baby, head tipped looking down at the child.
Once she became aware of that repetitive position, she was able to become extra aware of finding alternative positions when she’s doing other things during her day – texting, cooking, typing, reading, etc.
Once you are aware of what movement patterns you’re overusing, you can start paying attention to the times during your day when you don’t have to use those patterns.
If you have to sit at a desk to work because you don’t have access to a standing desk, no worries. But make sure that when you aren’t required to sit, you stand. This is an excellent option for helping you undo the overuse issues you face with sitting for hours every day.
3. Use Mobilization Drills To Break Away From ‘Default’ Positions
Your body will respond to the signals you send it.
When you use the soft tissue (muscles, fascia, ligaments, tendons) of your body to repeat one motion over and over again, that soft tissue will adapt.
It can get shorter as it gets stronger the more you use that pattern. It can get knotted up from being used more than necessary. Your soft tissue can, and will, change as you perform repetitive tasks.
Not taking action with your soft tissue pliability ensures that you will feel those muscles, tendons, and fascia barking at you sooner or later.
Remember too that your body is a grouping of global connections.
What happens in one area can impact what happens elsewhere.
Shoulder issues can impact your hips. Ankle issues can impact your knees. There are many connections from one joint to another, and from one part of your musculature to another. Care for your body as such.
4. Create Balance In Your Movement Patterns
To really address the overused, repetitive movement patterns in your day – and how they make you feel –
Every overused, repetitive movement pattern will have an opposing movement pattern that has been under-trained.
(“Under-trained” means it will be weaker, less coordinated, and less neurological connectivity from brain to muscles and fascia.)
When a movement pattern is under-trained, it’s similar to when you let a kid help with chores. They’re going to get it done, but the result isn’t likely to be pretty, or achieved in the most efficient way possible.
My friend with the new baby spends much of her day holding the child in her arms. Her back muscles won’t get to work much and her chest and shoulders will work a lot. When it comes for her to start working out again, she’ll want to start training her back again to bring back strength back to her muscles.
Failing to do so will impact the way her shoulder blade functions with her arm and rib cage. This can negatively impact everything about how she uses her arms and shoulders. And an injury could be in her future because of the sub-optimal movement pattern her shoulder blade has taken on.
It’s Not An Issue With Your Arm… It’s An Issue With Your Body
The body works as a globally connected unit.
What you do in one area impacts what happens in other areas.
It’s a-ok to do a movement repetitively, in fact, it’s sometimes required of you if you want to get your job done. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself by taking care to undo the negative effects of repetitive movements by following this checklist.
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