A self proclaimed klutz walked into a bar... You are waiting for the punch line, but it can be indicative of a more serious sign than just plain old clumsiness. Constantly bumping your right elbow into a bookcase or tripping over the threshold with your left foot might seem innocuous (as long as you catch yourself before hitting the floor). What starts off in youth as being labeled an "uncoordinated" person can translate into something more troubling into adulthood. Loss of coordination can range from a neurological issue or can be a musculoskeletal imbalance. Whatever the cause, there may be a fix. Here are a few examples of ways to shed the label of "klutz" and become a more coordinated and balanced individual:
1) Tripping - lack of ankle or hip mobility can be the source of constant near or actual falls. Quick Fix: Is it hard to raise your toes up when standing (you can lean against the wall to keep your balance)? Start stretching your calves a few times a day to increase the length of you leg muscles so your feet can raise up higher and clear the floor more easily instead of bumping your toes.
2) Bumping into objects - Always felt your alignment was off? Is one shoulder higher than the other? Turns out you might be bent over to the side as the resultant of some spinal curvature. Quick Fix: Go back to the Donna Summers era (no leotard needed) and try stretching to the side each way. (Lat Stretch YouTube Video) Is one side tighter than the other? Perform the the tight side as a stretch multiple times a day. Are both sides pretty even? Let you hips sway side to side (without moving your feet). Do your hips go to both sides pretty evenly? Try the pelvic shift stretch (Lateral Pelvic Shift Stretch) to the tight side.
3) Dropping things - Ever been embarrassed for dropping your drink and spilling wine over the hosts carpet at a party? If this is a sole occurrence and the result of little too much Cabernet, then you might be safe. If this has happened multiple times even on sober occasions, you might have a pinched or irritated nerve in your neck. The muscles in your hand are controlled from the lower nerves in your cervical spine, right before the neck becomes the upper back. If those nerves are compressed or irritated you might start losing discriminatory sensation, dexterity and strength of your hand which can lead to dropping light objects that normally wouldn't break a sweat. Not Such a Quick Fix: Have neck pain that radiates into the arm? Does your arm ever "fall asleep"? See a board certified physical therapist for thorough testing to rule out nerve compression in the neck.
Dr. Joshua Mazalian, DPT, OCS, CSCS is the owner of JAM Sports and Spine in Los Angeles and specializes in sports and orthopedic physical therapy. You can reach him on Twitter @jamsportsPT and Facebook as well as email at firstname.lastname@example.org