Thursday, January 13, 2011

If You Walked Like a Snowflake

GAIT is the term used to describe
the pattern of movement of the
limbs of animals. Human gait is
bipedal, meaning the pattern is
only on "two feet."

If you walk across the room and
back, what do you notice about
your own gait ? Before you read
on, try it. Walk across the room
and make mental notes about the
way you walk.

Did you land heel first and push
off your toes ? Did your knees
bend very much ? How long was
your right step compared to your
left step ? Now try it again and
see what you notice.

In gait analysis, the subject's gait
can be measured in many different
ways. Even if the right and left step
are the same length, they may not
take an equal amount of time. And
likely, they are not the same length.

In fact, almost everyone has one hip
stiffer than the other, which will make
a significant difference between left and
right steps. If the range of motion were
measured acutely in the foot, ankle, knee,
hip and lower spine, a myriad of asymmetry

Not only do ankles and knees flex and extend,
they twist. The feet are vastly complex with
with ranges of motion in three planes, as are
the hips. This illustrates how much asymmetry
is possible in the lower body.

As a snowflake forms, it takes on symmetry.
As its branches extend out from the center,
each new joint is a perfect match of the other
joints. But as the human body grows and
ages, each joint range of motion of the lower
body begins to repeat movements based on
necessity, thereby forming habits. These
habits cause increasing asymmetry of gait,
and break down the misused joints over time.
If the habits are bad enough and last long
enough, they may require artificial knee
and/or hip joints to replace the natural ones.

Like a snowflake, there are endless combinations
of lower body joint mobility, making every
person's gait unique. However, there are
standards of movement originating from
Tai Chi Chuan that mobilize joints more
thoroughly, allowing a person to "fix" his
or her gait and save the natural joints.

You'll get no such love from jogging, weight
lifting or even swimming.