Tracing Our Weight: How We Move
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
When you take a step forward, how do you shift your weight forward from your left foot to your right? It just kind of happens, doesn't it?
I like to see a nice controlled movement. I know that the pattern of movement looks like a butterfly as you move forward. I am focusing on your center of mass - that point gravity interacts with you. That point that determines whether you fall or defy gravity. For ease of discussion, that point is around your belly button region. If your center of mass gets in front of your toes, you fall forward. If your center of mass falls behind your heels, you fall backward. Can you envision that?
The other day I was working with a lady who was having a difficult time stepping forward. She was not steady stepping forward with her right foot nor with her left foot. She wasn't controlling her center of mass. The treadmill I use traces the path of her movement (focusing on how her center of mass moves). This is what I saw:
This may look a bit messy (it is!). The lines represent how the lady moved as she took a step forward and then returned to her starting position. She did the stepping five times with each foot. She has really poor consistency in how she is moving. You can see lots of squiggles - that represents her losing her balance. She was not allowed to hang onto anything. Normal movement patterns do not look like this image. What I should see is either a triangle or a tee-pee.
When I see movement patterns like this, I know the person isn't using their powerhouse to move: their butt muscles. Our butt muscles are strong. I am learning they provide quite a bit of stability in helping control our center of mass when we move. After I saw the graph of how she moved, I spent 5-10 minutes explaining how to use the hip/butt muscles. Anna and I demonstrated and cued the lady as she practiced moving differently. The lady did a few standing exercises to see if she could use the muscles (and she could!). We then pieced it together. As she moved again, practicing with cues from Anna and myself, using her hip/butt muscles, you will readily see how much better she was able to control her center of mass. This is the new diagram:
Although this is not perfect, look at how much better the tracing of her movement now looks! I can sort of see a tee-pee! She is able to return to her starting position almost perfectly (except for the squiggles in the bottom right - which represent where she set her foot down, but kept her center of mass going backward and almost lost her balance). She made quite a bit of change in how well she controlled her movement pattern and moved more steadily. When I see immediate improvement like this, I get excited.
Ever since I committed to helping people be more steady on their feet and bought equipment to help me analyze movement patterns, I have been able to really individualize treatment programs to more specifically address why a person feels unsteady.
Until next time,