What is a normal capacity of body movement?

When Novocastrians seek care from our ATUNE Physiotherapists, a functional assessment is performed as a routine part of the initial consultation. People quite rightly like to know how their assessment results compare to others and as we explain the results and any functional limitations observed we are commonly asked questions like:

  • How deep should I be able to squat?
  • Should I be able to touch my toes when I bend?
  • Does my arm reach high enough?
  • Should my leg twist like that?

But the main question we hear by far is is that normal ?”

“Normal” is a very subjective term at the best of times, and even more so when it comes to the human body. It is important to recognize that there is usually a big difference between what everyone else can do (“normal”) and what we are designed and have capacity to do.

Let’s use squatting as an example. If you ever watch a baby pick something up off the ground (see the video below), they perform a perfect squat to the floor in order to do so- the knees track over the toes and their heels stay planted on the floor. They simply moving efficiently, the way the body was designed to.

However, as an adult, after years of sedentary activities such as sitting and other poor movement habits, you find yourself unable squat down to the floor in this same way, we accept that this is now “normal”.

After all, no-one else in the office can do it either, right?

It’s easy to dismiss these normal human capabilities as something that only athletes or adolescents can do, but “not for me or the average Joe.”

However, we would challenge that line of thinking, as so many of the pain and function problems our clients present with are a result of this restricted movement.

Think about it. If you’re getting knee pain each time you bend over to pick something up from the floor, and you notice your knee is collapsing inwards at the same time you experience the pain, could this not be a signal from your body that something is not quite right?

Let’s be clear- these are not movements limited to athletes or gymnasts. We are not talking about doing the splits or folding yourself in half to fit in a magician’s box, we are talking basic, fundamental movements, like squatting, lifting your arms overhead or getting up and down from the floor.

Humans need to squat down to sit on a chair or lift up a box. They need to lift their arms above their heads to reach objects on the top shelf, or hang washing on the line. They need to be able to balance on one leg to walk up stairs properly without falling. And when they do end up on the floor, they need to be able to get up again by themselves if no-one else is around?

Difficulty or inability to perform these basic activities of daily living are the main reason why people are admitted to nursing homes.

The good news is that there are a couple of simple tests/positions to see if you are restricted in the way you move and stabilize the body. These can be seen in the video below. Watch the first 45 seconds of each video (sound not required) to see the 2 tests/positions and try for yourself.

If you find difficulty or you’re unable to perform these movements, then I would recommend seeking a more thorough assessment from an ATUNE Physiotherapist to determine an action plan to improve this BEFORE you develop common injuries like a cartilage tear in the knee or a rotator cuff tear in the shoulder. You may simply want to be able to get up out of bed without pain in the morning!

 Your health, vitality and function may depend on it.