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  • James Park, PT, DPT

Mobility vs. Flexibility??

Ever get confused about "mobility" versus "flexibility" ? These terms are often used interchangeably, and while they are not the same, each has an important function in how we move.

So what is mobility?

Mobility is the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion. whereas flexibility is the passive ability of a muscle to lengthen through a range of motion.

In other words, mobility is how well you can control your body’s movement through its entire range of motion.

Flexibility is passive. It’s the amount of movement that is available within the joint.

For example, people will claim to have “tight” hamstrings. This person attempts to touch their toes and is unable to do so. They feel this big pull in their hamstrings and blame those muscles for limiting their mobility.

This same person then lays on their back and has their leg passively stretched into hip flexion with the knee extended (a typical hamstring stretch). Here they continue to feel the same stretch in the hamstrings, but instead of being limited, their leg has normal range (about 70 degrees).

This is a classic example of how someone that demonstrates normal, or even good flexibility may not have the necessary mobility to get their body into certain positions.

Why is mobility important?

Because we were designed to move, and unfortunately we spend a lot more time stuck in one position because of our work environment and school. With that comes adaptations to those positions, which leads to us not being able to move as well.

The top 3 complaints that we see from our patients that work at a desk, whether at home or at their office are: chronic neck pain, shoulder pain and low back pain, and they can vary in severity from a little nagging ache to a deep debilitating pain.

The good news is that there are different ways to start addressing those issues: one of which is to improve your mobility.

Other tips that we give to our patients:

1. Making sure your feet are flat on the floor when sitting in a chair versus sitting on the floor, couch or bed.

2. Sitting tall with your chest up and shoulders slightly back, and your rear end positioned on the front half of the chair. When you sit all the way back, even in chairs with back support and ergonomic designs, you will eventually slouch and hang out in that slouched position for a while.

3. Get up and move every 30 minutes. Set a repeating alarm on your phone, as annoying as it may be or when you’re slammed with work, make sure to move, even for a brief moment. You want to wake up your body and break the routine of long stretches of sitting.

If you're dealing with chronic neck, shoulder, and low back pain, especially from working at home over the past 6 months, give us a call at (201) 429-3996 or send us an email at to see if you qualify for a free discovery session! Let us help you figure out where to start on your road to recovery!

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