A client came to me last week to help her out with a hip adductor/ hamstring issue. She was shocked to hear me tell her that her that her hamstrings were weak. She instantly replied “but I can do the splits”. I reassured her that the length of the muscle was only part of the equation which led to her injury. I told her an increased range of motion directly affects a muscles ability to absorb forces and unless strengthened progressively, will lead to injury. Here is a simple thing to remember: a force application to soft tissue/ bone, beyond its capabilities to resist will result in injury.
I performed some passive range of motion (PROM) tests as well as manual muscle tests and I educated her on muscle strength versus length tension relations. Muscle combinations in length/ tension can be one of four combinations:
- short and weak ie. hamstrings in a typical person who sits at a desk for 8 hours daily.
- long and weak ie. rhomboids (muscles between shoulder blades and mid spine) in someone who has a forward shoulder roll.
- short and strong ie. forearm flexors (which aren’t too bad in the short term) since you are just working in a diminished range of motion. The long term effects of this are muscle imbalances; contracture on one side and chronically eccentric loading on the opposing side (forearm extensors). This condition is also known as an over compensation pattern.
- long and strong ie. quadricep femoris (Front part of thigh). This is an ideal situation for injury prevention increased range of motion with soft tissue tensile strength.
How does one know the length tension relationship of their own musculature? Find a qualified trainer to perform a movement screen or GAIT analysis. Everybody has imbalances to work on however, most people won’t know about them until they become injured and fall into a perpetual pain cycle because they seek treatment that only looks after the symptoms but not the problem itself. If there is one thing I learned about rehabilitation, it is, you get what you put in. Meaning, if you see your practitioner once a week and solely rely on their treatment to get better, you may never recover. You need to be aggressive with the rehab protocol. Certain exercises, the application of cold/ heat and stretching all play major factors in a timeline of healing. You need to listen to your body and progress your rehabilitation accordingly.