As I usually explain to my patients, our evolution as a species included the development of joints for a specific reason. Speaking broadly, our joints can be thought of as information providers for the brain. They provide us with the means to physically interact with and interpret our environment. Considering their importance, wouldn’t it be useful to have a simple tool to self-assess how our joints are functioning? Or, as I like to say, a method of ‘taking a joint-inventory’
Insert Controlled Articular Rotations, or CAR’s, a concept created by Dr. Andreo Spina, the founder of Functional Anatomy Seminars. Here’s his definition:
Active, rotational movements at the outer limits of articular motion.
In other words, we are trying to take a joint through the greatest range of motion possible that we can actively control. In the following video, Dr. Spina does an excellent job of explaining and demonstrating CAR’s for the shoulder.
The usefulness of CARs lies in it’s ability to maintain range of motion, increase the health and longevity of your joints, and act as a screening process. It can be used for any joint in the body, and is usually a great addition to warm-ups and a morning movement routine.
CAR’s as a Joint-Inventory
As we work through the outer ranges of motion during a CAR’s routine we want to really raise awareness to what we are feeling. It is crucial to not just hone in on the range of the movement, but the quality of it. More specifically, we want to take note of points of tightness, inability to go further and pain.
When we find a range that we are especially tight in or cannot access, it is a good indication that we need to work on mobility that day. Or maybe we are feeling pain or pinching at a particular range. A good example of this would be when we are doing an arm circle and feel a ‘pinch’ on the top of the shoulder as we get into an overhead position. Most people are familiar with this being ‘shoulder impingement’. This is an example of closing angle pain, and a sign of poor joint function warranting a visit to a therapist. Another good example of closing angle pain would be a pinching sensation on the front of the hip when going into a deep squat.
In this way, CAR’s are an excellent tool to screen for decreased ranges of motion, poor control of ranges, or an alarm signal that we need therapeutic intervention. They provide us a means of keeping track or taking inventory of how our joints are responding to training.
So the next time that you are in the gym warming up, I encourage you to give them a try and see what you come up with. Let the inventory taking process begin!
Dr. Stephen Osterer
Performance Therapist / Chiro