While sitting receives its fair share of attention and spinal flexion creates its fair share of controversy, one critical component of human movement goes unaddressed while presenting serious problems for a lot of people.
This extremely common movement dysfunction is present across the widest spectrum possible of people of all walks of life, from sedentary couch potatoes to elite professional athletes. It causes major problems throughout the whole body, leading to injuries, chronic pain, and hindering performance.
The ability to rotate our body well is fundamental to our everyday movement, from walking to high level sports performance. Yet, an untold amount of people and high level athletes are restricted in their rotation, jeopardizing their body and suffering unnecessary consequences.
Ironically, lack of proper rotation is actually more often than not a fairly simple problem to resolve. In fact, by the end of this article you will have the understanding and the tools to assess and improve your rotation.
Let’s start by assessing our standing rotation ROM (Range of Motion) and identifying what to look for in regards to this crucial movement and its common compensations.
What Good Rotation Looks Like
Standing tall with both feet together firmly on the ground you should be able to look all the way behind you, exposing your back on the opposite side, basically almost completely facing the opposite direction you are pointing your feet. Your hips should be rotated about half as much as your torso.
What Dysfunctional Rotation looks Like
Compensations for limited access to rotation will vary and can look like spinal flexion or extension, excessive neck rotation, shrugging, arms rising, ankles rolling, toe gripping, breath holding, jaw deviation, eye movement, etc… . You can always count on the brain to be creative with compensation!
Lack of proper rotation can literally be coming from anywhere in the body. For example, it could be coming from a locked up talus (foot bone).
Sometimes restoring rotation can be as easy as simply raising that awareness in the body and full ROM can be achieved, whereas other times there will be clearly a restriction in the movement.
The single most common rotational restriction I see comes from the lumbopelvic area not allowing full rotation. This is actually great news because most of the time by simply addressing the TLF (Thoracolumbar Fascia) via SMFR (Self MyoFascial Release) and combining it with movement allows the body to restore full rotation!
In this picture Jim Beckmeyer was unable to fully access his rotation simply because his TLF (center picture) was holding him back. After performing 5 minutes of SMFR to his TLF Jim was able to significantly improve his rotation to near full ROM. In case you’re wondering, this is not a temporary response, but rather a permanent correction to his movement. It is not a coincidence that Jim can now play 18 holes walking the golf course without any issues at all, whereas in the past Jim’s back would consistently ”go out” every 6 months and lay him in bed for days.
If there is pain anywhere in the body during rotation the painful area should be carefully addressed via SMFR and then rotation should be reassessed. More often than not this will decrease the sensitivity of the previously painful area and improve rotation.
The pain could be coming from the neck, hips, knee, etc.., but most commonly it will come from the lumbopelvic area. This makes perfect sense considering how richly innervated the TLF is, the role of the TLF in rotation, and how it is arguably the greatest force transmission tissue in the body.
The two greatest sources of strength and power for human beings are hip extension and rotation. Therefore, the ability to rotate well is of the most utter importance to all athletes, particularly in rotational sports such as golf and tennis, but just as important in any other athletic endeavors such as running and rock climbing, specially in contact sports where the body rotates under external forces rather than internal.
Furthermore, restoring rotation not only prevents injuries and boosts performance, it also can often be enough to completely eliminate back pain in sedentary people and athletes alike! It can also help resolve problems throughout the whole body in such areas as the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, etc… .
TLF SMFR & Rotation Activation
Watch our video below to learn how to safely and most efficiently perform SMFR on the TLF. The video also includes a follow up exercise to improve rotation. It feels great, enjoy it!
When we walk we are supposed to rotate our spine, yet so many people walk around with a stiff spine, then they wonder why their back hurts! Pay attention to how you walk and make sure that you are engaging in rotation of your spine, you will be doing yourself a huge favor, and don’t stop there either, if you see other members of the stiff family walking around like a wood board please give them a helping hand and remind them to simply allow their spine to rotate as they take each step. By rotating while we walk we make sure that each step we take promotes proper function and good tissue quality in our body.
- Lack of proper rotation is a widespread and unrecognized problem affecting people of all walks of life regardless of lifestyle.
- Rotation is a fundamental human movement that supports everything from walking to sports performance.
- Dysfunctional rotation leads to injuries, chronic pain, and hindered performance.
- The most common restriction in rotation is a dysfunctional TLF (Thoracolumbar Fascia).
- Improving rotation can be as simple as performing SMFR on the TLF and training the movement.
- Rotation is one out of two of the strongest and most powerful movements in the human body.
- Restoring proper rotation can often be enough to completely eliminate back pain. It can also help resolve problems throughout the whole body.
- Practice rotation often, and make sure to rotate your spine during walking.
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