What are You Looking at?

Post by Ryan Balmes, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, FAAOMPT

If ever you are a new patient here at Motion Stability, you’ll likely be asked to walk and/or run in front of me.

Have you ever wondered what I am looking at?

Well to be honest, I’m looking at all the answers to your problem.

Your walking form tells me plenty of answers as to how your body is working. Most, if not all injuries, will manifest itself into the walking form. If you have any strength, flexibility, or joint mobility issues, they will very likely show up in your walking form! The same holds true when I look at your running form on the treadmill. (To make it easier for me, I also use an iPad app that allows me to perform a slow-motion analysis of your run.)

So when I have you walk, I’ll need you to walk away and towards me a few times. Walking is a complex combination of movements, so I like to analyze several times to break all those movement into chunks. Every physical therapist is different, but I like to go from the bottom and work my way up. So I first start looking at the feet then go upwards towards the head. Here a few of the things your walking and/or running form tells me:

1. Overall leg mechanics
Walking and running gait is a complex series of limb movements, and it is one of the intensely studied subjects in physical therapy school. If any of the leg mechanics with walking are incorrect, those signs are clues as to what is working incorrectly with your leg. One example would be if your right hip drops when you walk onto your left foot, then I know that your left hip muscles are weak!

2. Single leg stability
Walking gait spends no time in single leg standing, but that transition from one leg to another is similar to standing on one leg. I learn from your walking how well your leg is serving as a stable base of support as your body moves forward. Some clues are obvious, with your leg movement noticeably awry, while other clues are very minute. With running, there is much more time spent in single leg standing, so single leg stability is definitely important to assess here.

3. Trunk rotation
Trunk rotation or lack thereof, lets me know how well your trunk mobility is and/or how strong your hips are. Closely related to trunk rotation is your arm swings. Your arms swings gives me an idea of how well your shoulder blade stability is working with each stride forward.

4. Foot strike
Foot strike patterns have been popular lately, with the debate between forefoot striking versus heel striking reaching mainstream awareness. Whether you foot strike with your forefoot versus your heel is primarily important with running. At this time, the scientific studies have no definitive conclusion whether forefoot or heel striking is superior, so I’m okay with seeing either one in patients. With walking, foot strike is important in how your foot is positioned. Are the toes pointing inward? straight forward? or outwards? This is important in running as well. If the foot is positioned inward or outward, then I know that the foot is not moving as efficiently as possible.

Those are just a few of the things I can learn from watching your move. Afterwards, I do more tests manually to learn more about your strength, flexibility, and joint mobility to further learn more about your condition.

This is one of the reasons why I love what I do. There is no fuzzy logic or abstract theories here. Together we can find true causes of your condition in real-time from tangible findings – findings that your body was already telling us just from your walking form!

Medical Disclaimer: Motion Stability has created and compiled the content on its websites for your information and use. This information is not intended to replace or modify the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. Please remember that the information and content, in the absence of a visit with a health care professional, must be considered as an informational/educational service only and is not designed to replace a physician’s independent judgment about the appropriateness of risks of a procedure or condition for a given patient. 





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