Got Arm Swing?

We have written many times about arm swing. Click here for some of our posts here on Tumblr.

Here we are again at the beach. Look at the beautiful difference in arm swing from side to side in the guy carrying the bag. Makes you want to tell him to use a backpack, eh?

Never mind what it does to his gait

  • decreased arm swing on the carrying side
  • increased step length on the left side
  • increased thigh flexion of the left side
  • increased body lean and head tilt to right side (Take a look at this paper)

think about the increased metabolic cost. Think about what this  type of input (increased amplitude of movement unilaterally) is doing to your cortex!

keep your movements symmetrical, folks!

The Gait Guys

Can you see it?

Here we are again. We have looked at this picture before; once about head tilt, and another about flip flops and form.

Take a good look at this picture and what is different about the child in blue all the way to the right and all the others with the exception of the boy in pink, that we really cannot see?

Can you see it? No, we don’t mean the flip flops (but if you caught that all the boys were in sneakers and all the girls are in flip flops, you are good!)

How about looking at arm swing? Remember this post on arm swing and crossover gait, with the simple cue for correction? All of the children EXCEPT the boy in blue, are drawing their arms ACROSS their body (ie: flexion, internal rotation and adduction). Take a look at their legs. Yep, crossover gait (flexion, internal rotation and adduction). Little boy blues arms are going relatively straight and going in the saggital plane, where the others are going in the coronal plane.

We are not saying that blue does not have some gait challenges, like his torso shift to the left (or pelvic drift to the right), most likely do to gluteus medius weakness or inappropriate firing of the gluteus medius on the left stance phase leg; or his head tilt to the right, which most likely represents a compensation for the right pelvic drift and left body lean.

Arm swing. A very important clue to the puzzle we call gait and compensation. It is more prevalent than you think, and, in some cases, easily corrected with a simple cue.

The Gait Guys. Making it real and pertinent, in each and every post.

Correcting a cross over gait with arm swing? Is it really THAT easy? Sometimes, yes!

We noticed this patient had a cross over gait while running (1st few seconds of video. need to know more about crossover gait? click here). We noted she was crossing her arms over her body as well. We than had her run her hands and arms straight out. See the crossover disappear? Need to know more about arm swing? click here

We the had her do the same while walking. Easier to see, eh? That’s because it is often easier to “fudge” things when you are moving faster (ie: the basal ganglia of nervous system can interpolate where the body part is supposed to be, and because of momentum, there is less need for precision). When we do things slowly (like the 3 second Test), more precision is needed. Watch this short video clip a few more times.

The arms are essentially adducting when the arms cross over. The arms are reciprocally paired with the contralateral lower extremity. When you make a change in one, you often will make a change in the other.

Subtle. Yes. Easier to see when the task becomes more difficult. Yes. Pay attention, the answer is often right there if you look closely enough.

Providing the clues to help you be smarter, better, faster, stronger; we are The Gait Guys

special thanks to “Q” for allowing us to publish this video : )

Welcome to rewind Friday, Folks. This week we have hammered on arm  swing. This one is from a year ago and seemed germane to this weeks posts.

Arm swing in gait and running. Why it is crucial, and why it must be symmetrical.

It becomes clear that once you get the amazing feats seen in this video out of your head, and begin to watch just the variable use of the arms that you will begin to appreciate the amazing need for arm swing and function in movement.

We have written many articles on arm swing and its vital importance in gait and running. Have you missed all these articles ?  If so, go to our blog main page, type in “arm swing” in the search box and you will have a solid morning of readings at your fingertips.  We are still not done writing about this most commonly forgotten and overlooked aspect of gait and running analysis, and we probably never will be done.  Why is no one else focusing on it ?  We think it is because they do not see or understand its critical importance.

Without the presence and use of the arms in motion things like acceleration, deceleration, directional change, balance and many other critical components of body motion are not possible.

What is perhaps equally important for you to realize, as put forth in:

Huang et al in the Eur Spine Journal, 2011 Mar 20(3) “Gait Adaptations in low back pain patients with lumbar disc herniation: trunk coordination and arm swing.”

is that as spine pain presents, the shoulder and pelvic girdle anti-phase begins to move into a more in-phase favor.  Meaning that the differential between the upper torso twist and pelvic twist is reduced. As spine pain presents, the free flowing pendulum motions of the upper and lower limbs becomes reduced to dampen the torsional “wringing” on the spine. When this anti-phase is reduced then arm swing should be reduced. The central neural processing mechanisms do this to reduce spinal twisting, because with reduced twist means reduced spinal motor unit compression and thus hopefully less pain. (Yes, for you uber biomechanics geeks out there, reduced spine compression means increased shear forces which are favorite topics of many of our prior University instructors, like Dr. Stuart McGill). The consequence to this reduced spinal rotation is reduced limb swing.  And according to

Collins et al Proc Biol Sci, 2009, Oct 22 “Dynamic arm swinging in human walking.”

“normal arm swinging requires minimal shoulder torque, while volitionally holding the arms still requires 12 % more metabolic energy.  Among measures of gait mechanics, vertical ground reactive moments are most affected by arm swinging and increased by 63% without arm swing.”

So, it is all about efficiency and protection. Efficiency comes with fluid unrestricted movements and energy conservation but protection has the cost of wasting energy and reduced mobility through a limb(s) and spine.

In past articles we have carried these thoughts into historical functional needs of man such as carrying spears and of modern day man in carrying briefcases.   Today we show a great high functioning video of another parkour practitioner.  Parkour is a physical discipline and non-competitive sport which focuses on efficient movement around obstacles.  Watch closely the use of the arms. The need for arm use in jumping, in balance, in acceleration etc. It becomes clear that once you get the amazing feats seen in this video out of your head, and begin to watch just the use of the arms that you will begin to appreciate the amazing need for arm swing and function in movement.

There is a reason that in our practices we treat contralateral upper and lower limbs so much.  Because if you are paying attention, these in combination with the unilateral loss of spinal rotation are the things that need attention. 

Yup, we are The Gait Guys….. we have been paying attention to this stuff long before the functional movement assessment programs became popular.  If you just know gait, one of the single most primitive patterns other than crawling and breathing and the like, you will understand why you see altered squats, hip hinges, shoulder ROM screens etc.  You have to have a deep rooted fundamental knowledge of the gait central processing and gait parameters. If you do not, every other screen that you put your athlete or patient through might have limited or false leading meaning. 

Shawn and Ivo …  combining 40 years of orthopedics, neurology, biomechanics and gait studies to get to the bottom of things.