Every fire fighter knows that lifting boxes, people, or equipment can be hard on the back. At any time, approximately 25-30% of fire fighters are likely to have back pain, while up to 85% should expect to report discomfort at some point during their career. However, rarely is a fire fighter’s mobility discussed within this context, despite evidence showing that limiting ankle mobility can increase the low back load by 23%. If unable to dorsiflex the ankle (move shin forwards over foot), more range of motion will be needed from adjacent joints such as the hips or low back to pick up an object from the floor. When the low back is forced to help out by flexing, the muscles are reoriented and less able to contribute thus requiring more work from the supporting ligaments and discs (not ideal!).
Have you ever considered how much shoulder range of motion you need to perform your activities of daily living? To simply wash your back, comb your hair, get dressed, and go to the bathroom on your own requires approximately 120° of shoulder flexion and 45° of shoulder extension. If unable to access this range for any reason, other joints will need to accommodate (e.g. arch your back to raise your arms overhead), assistance from a friend or family member may be needed, or you will be forced to avoid the task altogether (which is often not an option). Those who have had their arm in a sling for any period of time would probably attest to the negative impact on their quality of life, and thus the importance of maintaining shoulder mobility.
We all like to feel good and have the option to engage in some form of ‘play’, be it games, sports or physical activity with family and friends. Having access to hip mobility can provide the millions who enjoy golf, for example, with the opportunity to perform at a high level while keeping them pain free. Golf requires hip flexion during the set-up, and extension, internal rotation and external rotation during the swing. Golfers with more hip rotation are able move through a larger range during the down swing thus allowing them to produce higher club head speeds and longer driving distances. Hip mobility deficits (particularly with the lead leg) have also been associated with an increase in low back pain amonge professional and amateur golfers. If golf is not of interest, not to worry, your hobbies are likely to be influenced by mobility too!