Practical Science on Movement and Pain

Home Base

Home base of baseball field in Třebíč, Czech R...

Keep it clean.

When you are doing joint mobility drills or otherwise exploring movement at a particular joint, do you spend more time at the end ranges of motion where movement is stiff and limited, or in the neutral zone where movement is easy?

Of course movement in each zone is a potentially beneficial way to map the joint for the brain. But often the neutral area get ignored in favor of the end ranges and this can be a mistake.

I was reminded of this the other day when I heard an interesting bit of advice from Paul Rubin, a Feldenkrais instructor. He was talking about his thought process when moving a client’s limbs through some mobilizations.

He said that his first order of business in exploring movement at a particular joint was not to find the end ranges of motion where movement becomes more difficult (and potentially threatening.)

Instead, he tries to find the joint’s exact neutral points where movement is easiest, smoothest and safest. After clarifying exactly where these “sweet spots” are, he proceeds to explore outward a little further, always making sure that the pathway back to home base is available and understood.

I liked this idea. It’s good to explore the outer limits and master them, but it can often be just as important to make sure that home base is accessible and in good working order. That’s where most of life occurs anyway.

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7 Responses to Home Base

  1. Fredinchina says:

    Ahhhhh, very interesting remarks about “home base”… My right shoulder is being rehabilitated after surgery, and I was wondering why the physio was always starting with the “mid range” (that you call the sweet spot) instead of attacking gains in ROM straight on… He is also frequently returning to this range before going for ROM gains, time after time.

    an “aha” moment reading your post – thanks :)

  2. eliza hughes says:

    With Bowen therapy, there is a move involving the hip where with the client lying supine, the femur is flexed to 90 degrees with the knee bent. This position is then held by the therapist for awhile. You can sometimes feel the leg move as if the femur is setting more into the hip joint. You can then find that the femur can be easily flexed further.

  3. giesenbauerG says:

    interesting point! Thanks for sharing.

  4. But once you’re on the neutral zone, what do you do to help the brain to recognize and recall this position as a base?

    • Nicolas,

      Good question. I think somehow you need to impress on the brain that the neutral zone has some usefulness. One way to do this might be applying some compressive force through the joint with weights or manual compression. If the joint surfaces are very well aligned, the force will pass through the joint with no shearing forces. Its easy to remember the first time you hit a golf ball flush with no vibration. Perhaps a perfect compression through a well aligned joint can help create a more subtle version of the same thing – a novel and memorable sensory experience of good joint use. I’m sure there are many other answers to your question.

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