Getting Articular Independence

Getting Articular

Getting Articular Independence

Christine Ruffolo


As examined in my previous post, joint function defines what kind of movements you are prepared to perform. Articular independence must come before articular interdependence. The ability to isolate a particular joint leads to more control, increased awareness, and lessening of pain. Below, Dr. Andreo Spina reveals a corresponding case study:

A little while back I shared this case of a swimmer with chronic impingement problems. The previous post showed the top (presentation) and middle (1 week into treatment) frame only. The third frame shows our progress approx 1 month in using basic Functional Range Release (FR)® and Functional Range Conditioning (FRC)® principles. The patient has been pain free for a while, but more important is the dramatic improvement in scapular mobility and control. ————— Articular INDEPENDENCE before articular INTERDEPENDENCE Far too often people are focused on training complex movement patterns before they even have the necessary independent joint functions needed to perform them. The patient below is a swimmer who presented with shoulder problems. It is obvious in the first frame that he lacks scapulo-thoracic dissociation (ie. His scapula and thoracic cage movements are coupled…which means he has no scapulo-thoracic joint so to speak). How then would he perform movements which require this articulation? Compensation. The patient is being managed with: 1. Functional Range Release (FR) to promote relative tissue motion, and to remold aberrant connective tissue resulting from the stress of the compensation patterns 2. Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) to create independent articular motion, build tissue resilience, and improve motor control ———————————- #FunctionalRangeRelease #FRrelease #FR #FunctionalRangeConditioning #FRC #FRCms #ControlYourself

A video posted by Dr. Andreo Spina (@drandreospina) on

In getting this swimmer to distinguish between scapular and thoracic movement, his improved motor control has lessened his impingement problems.

If each joint can do their job, the stress of movement can be dispersed among multiple parts. The pain or dysfunction that comes with practicing movement typically has two sources: a lack of variability and/or too much load taken on by a singular place. Often both of these causes are compounded within the same individual. By only practicing one thing you’re missing out on the information that variable movement provides.

All movements are assessments. Not being able to do something gives you a lot more insight into what your weaknesses and vulnerabilities are. This is where joint disassociation has it’s greatest benefit — increasing your awareness to which joints are lacking. Mindfulness, then, leads to control. If you can control something it gives any movement utilizing that joint more confidence.

The simplest way to pinpoint singular joint function is to ask the neighboring joints to do the opposite.

Aaron Swanson shows an ankle and toe example below:

The toes lead, moving opposite the next intended movement of the ankle. The contrary command forces the joints to disassociate and perform their actions independently. This method can also work for stifling the onset of maximal range of motion cramps. Here I pull the toes back to force the foot and ankle to work together to get maximal plantar flexion:

When I add the toes to assist in the movement, I get a bit more. To side step the cramping that comes naturally when maximal effort is placed on a particular movement, simply pull the distal joint opposite, then add them back again when the threat subsides. In this illustration, the toes are the distal manipulation that gets pulled back up while continually trying push the ankle.


The same system can be used for easing low back pain – disassociating the pelvis from the lumbar spine.


Pelvic freedom can be practiced by dropping the spine into extension, and driving the pelvis against this flow of movement:

A nice follow up to traditional cat-cows, this move demonstrates an ability to separate the upper half of the body from the lower half. (It’s also where the name ‘Cow Tail Wag’ stems from.) I like the extension ‘blocked’ movement better than the forearm flexion blocked movement because it starts where most people tend to live — anterior pelvic tilt — and forces them to move out of it.


Flexion-based starts tend to be less controlled because posterior pelvic tilts are a foreign movement to many.  Asking folks to move opposite of a position they naturally hold themselves in seems to get much more crossover and applicable motor learning.




Further testing of joint control can be found when using external assistance to ramp the body into contrasting positions. The wall is used below to force my shoulders into ‘abnormal’ flexion, which further extends the spine through the low back. The task becomes pelvic flexion (posterior tilt) when placed against a position of extreme extension.

Once there, I explosively drive the hips into extension, keeping the pelvis in position. The sandwiching effect of alternating demand (extension-flexion-extension) adds in a dynamic challenge of joint control. The goal of greater movement is greater utility. Relying only on static practice limits the crossover that training is meant to prepare you for.


Once articular independence has been gained, you can start playing — moving one particular joint while connected joints are frozen in an isometric movement.

#KINSTRETCH The #StretchingMovement starts soon… #ControlYourselfEVENMORE A video posted by Dr. Andreo Spina (@drandreospina) on


This move-lock-move pattern is a basic tenet of Spina’s new Kinstretch endeavor:


Stiffening specific joints in a multi-joint pattern forces you to find those aforementioned movement solutions. It serves as final checkpoint stop on the independence to interdependence continuum. When trying to gauge scapular movement, for example, locking the elbows takes them out of the equation, leaving scapular motion the singular driving force:

Similarly, as shown in the second part of the video, you can make it ‘all elbows’ by tightening up the shoulder blades. If an articulation holds to much of an influence in a movement, try performing the movement with that joint fixed.



  • Articular independence must come before articular interdependence
  • All movement can be broken down into snippets
  • The continued reduction of movement to its articular level can help source pain and pinpoint dysfunction
  • Asking neighboring joints to do the opposite forces them to disassociate
  • Practicing articular independence can help with cramping and pain issues
  • Investigate the relationship between the pelvis and lumbar spine if you suffer from low back pain
  • Joint disassociation should be practiced under both static and dynamic positions to encourage maximal crossover into real-world movement
  • Stiffening overly-influential joints can help you find articular independence elsewhere


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