Although these fitness terms are often used interchangeably, any physical therapist can tell you there is a distinct difference between flexibility and mobility. A person who is flexible may not have great mobility, or vice versa. While “flexibility” refers to a person’s ability to temporarily stretch their muscles, ligaments and tendons, such as by touching their toes. One person’s muscles may have a greater capacity to stretch than another’s, but that does not necessarily predict his or her mobility. “Mobility” is the ability of a joint to move through its full range of motion without discomfort. Learning the precise differences between flexibility and mobility can help you move better and feel better.
Put simply? Flexibility relates to the muscles, and mobility relates to the joints.
The Connection Between Flexibility and Mobility
Although mobility and flexibility are not the same thing, one impacts the others to some extent. While training for any sport or recovering from an injury, you should address both. To have good joint mobility, you must have muscle flexibility, first. For example, if you want to touch your toes, your hamstrings have to be flexible enough to stretch in order to do so. That doesn’t mean if you can’t touch your toes, though, that you have poor flexibility. It could be caused by overactive muscles. Muscles crossing multiple joints are those that propel us forward, but stabilizing muscles usually only cross one joint. An example of a lack of mobility is if you have weak ankles, you may still be able to squats, but you may not be able to do so with proper form. If you are trying to stretch any muscle over a mobility-restricted joint, you likely won’t have much success.
To improve your joint health and maintain a pain-free body, you should have active control over the positions you move through. This doesn’t mean you have to be extremely flexible, but daily mobility training for joint health can improve your overall health. So, if you are looking to become a better mover, move gently and regularly to build up stamina and endurance. This is an instance of “if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Good mobility is essential to your overall quality of all, particularly in your older age. Being able to move without restriction or pain allows you to perform everyday activities more easily. If the body can’t move through its natural movements easily, you can easily become injured – an injury that would have easily been prevented with a little extra focus on mobility. Both mobility and flexibility are important, as your muscles need to be strong to support your movements, and their elasticity helps you move more freely.
If you’re looking to improve your flexibility or mobility, contact us at ProFysio Physical Therapy today at (732) 812-5200 to book your appointment.