Are You Lax?

So a few weeks back I had a girl (who will remain anonymous) come to me complaining of feeling chronically “tight.” She said for the past few weeks she’d been stretching like crazy and no matter what she did she couldn’t get rid of the “tight” feeling in her hips.  Not only that, she was complaining of anterior hip pain after a long day of walking.

A few questions later I found out she had been a dancer for a large portion of her life, and had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go next (I honestly can’t even comprehend all the things I’d tear in the process of getting into this position).

Seeing as I was at home just relaxing with my roomies (aka not a good place to perform a thorough assessment) I went with a quick and easy test of general laxity:  the Beighton hypermobility test.

Laxity, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is basically how much “give” your ligaments have.  Some people have naturally stiff joints, while others have naturally loose joints.

Here’s a quick video of the test, and I’ll explain what it means below:

As you can see, the test consists of 5 quick assessments, and here are some rough guidelines for what would be considered a “positive” test for laxity:

1. Elbow hyperextension > 10° (left and right sides) 2. Knee hyperextension > 10° (left and right sides) 3. Flex the thumb to contact with the forearm (left and right sides) 4. Extend the pinky to >90° angle with the rest of the hand (left and right sides) 5. Place both palms flat on the floor without flexing the knees

Needless to say, she passed with flying colors and is someone I’d definitely categorize as being lax.

As I mentioned above, laxity refers to how much give your ligaments have.  So you’d like to think someone who’s really lax would feel loosey goosey all the time, but that’s just not the case.  Many times, people who have a lot of laxity (like this girl did) will complain of feeling tight all the time.  This, however, is not true muscular shortness or stiffness, but rather, the body laying down trigger points in an attempt to provide stability to an unstable joint.

For this reason, stretching is often contraindicated for people who are really lax because they’re causing more harm than good.  They’re merely stretching into greater instability and pissing their body off in the process (aka what she was doing)

A better strategy for these individuals is to focus on generating stability and stabilization from the right places, and that could mean doing things like squatting, deadlifting, pressing and rowing.  It all depends on the person and what they need.

If you have any questions, be sure to post them below and I’ll help you out.