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Movement System Impairment Classification

Injury Rehabilitation

Most of us take the easy way out, even when it comes to movement. It’s the path of least resistance, so it makes sense, right? For example, if your hips are loose – like most ballet dancers – but your spine is stiff, any time you bend, you use the most flexible part (in this case your hips) to get the job done. Likewise, if your spine moves a lot but your hips are stiff- like many computer programmers – you use your back more when you bend. The dancer and the programmer both have back pain, but how we treat them is very different.   

Shirley Sahrmann PT, PhD, FAPTA, developed the Movement System Impairment (MSI) classifications to help identify and group people by the way they move. It’s part of the concept of relative flexibility, i.e., one part is more flexible than another and the most flexible part is where your body prefers to move. Once we identify your movement preference s, we help you control movement where you are most flexible and increase movement in stiffer areas. It turns out that those areas where we have excessive movement (the path of least resistance) are also where you usually have tissue breakdown.

Initially, moving in a new way takes a lot of conscious effort – your brain may be working harder than your body – but eventually this new way of moving becomes automatic. Once excessive movement is controlled, injured tissue is no longer strained and it heals. Correcting movement patterns early, before you have pain, helps prevent problems by dissipating stress and improving movement efficiency. How cool is that?