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Movement Is Medicine


This is one of the most popularized sayings in the health and fitness industry, and rightfully so. For those that value and prioritize healthy and active lifestyles, we understand the significance of movement in maintaining and improving our overall health. In a world that continues to create opportunities for people to live more sedentary lifestyles, movement has become more an active and willful choice, than a necessity.

Maintaining movement in daily life leads to better overall physical health, better mental health, and by these two measures, better overall quality of life. Movement as medicine is also understood and utilized within injury rehab settings, by medical and allied health practitioners alike.

One of the worst things we can do in addressing an injury, or within injury rehabilitation, is restricting movement. While there are injuries that require immobilization, prevent an individual from weight-bearing, or require short-term rest, the restriction of movement must always be parameterized, such that we are pushing people back toward movement-based rehabilitation as time and ability permit.

Proper movement is the mechanism by which our tissues remodel and heal. Structural and functional tissues – bones, muscle, ligaments, tendons – all respond to active stimuli, meaning that they will adapt to the conditions required of them. Without sufficient active stimuli, they will not model themselves to adequately respond to conditions (e.g. muscle tissue atrophy/decrease). Without movement integration, not only do we stand to increase the duration of ‘injury’, but also increase the likelihood of ongoing effects brought on by the initial injury.

So…what’s the takeaway?

The takeaway is that good trainers and therapists will seek to integrate movement and active measures into training and rehab protocols. On an individual level, understanding the mechanism of injury is often important, as it can help us understand the affected part of the body and the reason for the pain/discomfort. Beyond that, we should typically try to address the affected area by prioritizing two things: mobility and strength.


When dealing with joint pain, we want to attempt to maintain or increase the range of motion within that joint. Oftentimes, ‘resting’ or immobilizing a joint can lead to a decrease in joint range of motion in both the short and long term.


Secondly, we want to strengthen the affected tissues. Injuries often happen due to a level of intolerance in tissue, leading it to deform or react in response to a given action. As such, strengthening weak areas of our body will inevitably lead to a decreased likelihood of injury, but also increase the capacity of our tissues and our body in response to the injury, leading to a decrease in the significance of the injury presentation (i.e. pain, immobility, etc.).

With this in mind, let’s not disregard pain. Acute and persistent pain is often a direct indicator of inability. As such, we use it as a marker. During rehabilitation, I like to suggest that we utilize the ‘tolerance envelope’. This refers to the body’s ability or tolerance to endure active requirements before the onset of pain. To that end, for most injuries, we want to push our bodies to that tolerance point, and then back off so as not to cause increased aggravation. Comfort is often achieved first through a level of discomfort.

Let’s continue to prioritize movement and activity to prevent injury, but also to overcome them when they do occur. Rest is not always best.

Wesley Garrard – R.Kin, B.Kin (Hons) - Owner of ASCEND Rehabilitation Collective

House of Sweat ~ In collaboration with ASCEND Rehabilitation Collective

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