Understanding Your Body: The Kinetic Chain

WHAT IS THE KINETIC CHAIN?

Consider, for a moment, that your body is a machine that is made up of lots of individual parts that are given mobility by joints.

When you move, the parts of your body act as a system of chain links. Energy or force generated by one link (or part of the body) needs be transferred successively to the next link.

Efficient movement and activity requires sufficient mobility between the chain links, enough strength in all parts of the chain, and optimal coordination and timing of these parts.

Looking at the lower half of the body, the foot, knee, hip, and even the low back act as links in the chain, which are totally dependent on one another for effective and efficient motion.

WHEN PROBLEMS OCCUR

Over time, we can develop stiff links and weak links within the kinetic chain.

A stiff link in the chain tends to cause excessive movement elsewhere in the chain. And that excessive movement creates abnormal stress and strain. That’s why the stiff link may be the original cause of problems, but the relatively flexible link in the chain is frequently the source of pain and pathology.

For example, someone who sits down all day can develop tight hip flexors. Tight hip flexors lead to reduced hip extension, which in turn may cause excessive movement in the lower back and pelvis…..leading to low back pain. The problem was the tight hip flexors, but the weak link in the chain (the lower back) is the area that becomes painful.

THE RIPPLE EFFECT

So how far up or down the chain do we need to investigate to find the original cause of pain and pathology?

Problems in one area tend to ripple upstream and downstream through the body. Like ripples on a pond, the effect tends to be strongest closest to the affected area and get weaker further away from the primary problem.

A painful, stiff or weak hip will often lead to low back pain (upstream) or knee pain (downstream). It’s less likely to lead to neck pain or ankle pain. However, even that’s a possibility, so it’s useful to assess areas far removed from the primary area of concern.

SO, HOW CAN YOUR PHYSIO HELP?

First, we must identify and treat the painful tissues that are causing your pain.

Next, it’s important to go the extra mile to find relevant stiff and weak links up and down the kinetic chain. They can’t be treated if they’re never discovered.

The more thorough your assessment, the greater number of treatment options that are available. That’s vital when you’re trying to overcome persistent, long-term problems.

Once we’ve identified and set about treating weak and stiff/ tight links in the chain, we usually need to help you to change your movement patterns.

Unlike a machine, the human body is very good at managing despite weak and stiff links. This usually involves adopting suboptimal/ dysfunctional movement patterns. You can usually manage just fine with these so long as you don’t try to do anything too strenuous.

Faulty movement patterns tend to place a glass ceiling on your physical capabilities, so as soon as you push hard, perform repetitive movements or adopt sustained postures, you’re more prone to injury.

We put this all together for you by addressing weak and stiff links in the chain, then helping you to re-learn new, functional movement patterns to replace the old, faulty patterns.

Posted in Prevent