Flexibility and mobility are two words that are commonly used interchangeably. If we stop to think about what the two mean, however, they are actually quite different – and it’s imperative to take note of that difference.

How Flexibility and Mobility Differ

If we start with basic definitions and then break them down to understand the differences, you can make more sense of the two terms:

  • Flexibility can be simply defined as the ability of a muscle to lengthen.
  • Mobility is the joints’ ability to move actively through a range of motion.

The most straightforward, obvious difference between the two is that flexibility is a more passive type of motion, while mobility refers to a more active kind of motion. 

The Importance of Movement Control

Both flexibility and mobility can play a huge role in how we keep our bodies healthy in the various activities that we partake in. Think about it: just because you are able to move deeply into a stretch, does it mean that you should be in that deep stretch? If you are unable to control the movement of your body in different positions, it may not be a safe stance for you to be in. Injuries frequently happen at the end ranges of motion or within recently acquired ranges of motion, when we are unable to take control of how we move. Therefore, it is crucial that we learn to control the movement of each of our joints to protect our bodies and prevent future injury.

Moral of the story: it is not important to be the most flexible person,  to go to every yoga class, or to enact the deepest stretch in said class. What is important, however, is learning how to control the movements you are able to do, and as you acquire a new range of motion and become more flexible, you must master the control of that range. By doing so, your joints and muscles will be happier, your body will be more efficient, and you will be able to stay active in the ways that you want.

Unsure if a flexibility or mobility issue is contributing to symptoms you are having? Reach out to your local SET Physical Therapy for a personalized assessment and treatment plan!

Movement Assessment with SetPT