Why should I move beautifully?

Why should I move beautifully? Well, because injury is complicated. Almost never does someone come to my office complaining of symptoms where there is only “one simple thing” wrong.  Occasionally injury is simple but it is certainly not the rule.  In fact we can typically get away with just one issue without symptoms. A great example of this is that nerve compressions are often symptom free and can remain so for a long period of time before a second compression or trauma somewhere else on the nerve forces the body to (metaphorically) throw up it’s hands and resign to becoming symptomatic. FYI the preceding situation is known as the “double crush injury”, how lovely! In this manner it is much more common that by the time someone gets to see me there are a few problems layered on top of one another that have finally resolved into symptoms: pain, stiffness, movement dysfunction etc.

When we treat an injury it is certainly valuable, especially in the short term, to treat the structures that are damaged. “Genius!” you may think. Of course damaged structures that are the source of pain should be those targeted for intervention in physiotherapy. This is appropriate and gives us (the patient/therapist team) early wins that not only feel good but also grant us buy in toward working on the more fundamental problem of the faulty movement patterns that have cause the tissue traumas in the first place!

What I mean by this is that in many (many!) cases the reason that a tissue structure became injured in the first place is faulty movement patterns in day to day or sporting activity. There is a reason why the tagline for Braithwaite Physiotherapy is “Move Beautifully”. The fundamental way to avoid movement problems characterised by tissue damage, pain and dysfunction is to move with poise and grace. Clinically we  might say move with alignment, great movement patterning and stability in posture. I prefer the overarching term Beautiful Movement to capture these ideas.

Take a look at the video below. In the video, I describe a single leg pistol squat, which is a great screening tool for knee function that is much more about how beautifully the movement is executed than looking for a specific damaged structure. This is a great example of how beautiful movement indicates our overall musculoskeletal health and resilience against injury.

The reason why we often see multiple sites of tissue damage by the time someone comes in to see me is that crummy movement patterning negatively affects all of the tissues drafted into producing the crummy movement! So one poor running pattern might cause injury to many structures including the hip joint surfaces, ligaments at the knee, the hamstrings muscles and the sciatic nerve. Do we treat these ligaments, muscles, joints and nerves? YES of course we do! But we create real progress in the medium to long term by also “treating” the faulty movement patterns so that these injuries never happen again!

There is another angle to this discussion on beautiful movement that I love just as much as the angle around injury management. This is that there is a very real and strong aesthetic case to be made for moving beautifully. Great quality movement patterning looks fantastic. Period and end of story. This is a powerful lever for confidence that we all get access to regardless of our station in life. Striding into a room with great posture and a perfect walking pattern has an impact on those who observe it. More importantly it has an impact in the person doing the striding! Studies discussed previously in this blog have shown the relationship between feelings of self worth, confidence and specific power poses. Other studies have demonstrated how the strength of a walking pattern affects the perceived strength and dominance of the walker by an observer.

Some interesting considerations on this topic come from studies of people who have movement dysfunction as a result of stroke. As you may know, stroke results from a lack of blood flow to the brain, or from a blood vessel bleed  into the brain. Incidentally this is the same type of problem that occurs at the heart in the case of a heart attack and there was some momentum a few years back to start calling the injury a “brain attack” instead of a stroke to reflect this mechanism. These injuries often damage motor neurons, the nerves that carry movement signals from the brain  to the muscles. A common deficit after this type of brain injury is partial (or full) paralysis of muscle segments that manifest as dysfunctional movement of many types, including walking. One study identifying factors cited as most important to their walk by people who have had a stroke suggested that the quality (appearance) of the walk was more important to them than speed of walk. Think about that for a second, in this study group looking good in movement was more important than crossing the street in time! Confidence in movement matters, another great study of persons who have had a stroke identified that confidence in the quality and balance of their walk was more associated with activity participation than the ACTUAL quality, balance and speed of their walk. Their self perception and confidence in the walk was what truly matters.

For anyone, whether injured or not, the very real facts are that beautiful movement patterning will make you feel better about yourself and will in no small way get you perceived as stronger, more capable and (yes) sexier by others. There are few better fashion accessories than beautiful movement. If that isn’t a compelling argument for moving beautifully I don’t know what is!

Beautiful movement is a skill that can absolutely be learned. Like all behavior changes It should be learned and implemented one small step (one small movement pattern) at a time. Start with standing and sitting, move to walking and running, pushing, pulling pressing and lifting (and whatever other “…ing”  your heart desires) as you feel ready. Consult with your physiotherapist to help coach you along the way.

So have fun moving beautifully. Congratulations, you are happier, healthier and hotter for your efforts!

Further reading (if you really want to impress your friends).

Bohannon, R. W., Morton, M. G., & Wikholm, J. B. (1991). Importance of four variables of walking to patients with stroke. International Journal of Rehabilitation Research, 14(3), 246-250.

Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1363-1368.

Gunns, R. E., Johnston, L., & Hudson, S. M. (2002). Victim selection and kinematics: A point-light investigation of vulnerability to attack. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 26(3), 129-158.

Nakagawa, T. H., Moriya, E. T., Maciel, C. D., & Serrao, F. V. (2012). Trunk, pelvis, hip, and knee kinematics, hip strength, and gluteal muscle activation during a single-leg squat in males and females with and without patellofemoral pain syndrome. journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy, 42(6), 491-501.

Schmid, A. A., Van Puymbroeck, M., Altenburger, P. A., Dierks, T. A., Miller, K. K., Damush, T. M., & Williams, L. S. (2012). Balance and balance self-efficacy are associated with activity and participation after stroke: a cross-sectional study in people with chronic stroke. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 93(6), 1101-1107.

Sahrmann, Shirley (2010). Update of Concepts Underlying Movement System Impairments. Sahrmann, S (Ed.) Movement system impairment syndromes of the extremities, cervical and thoracic spines. (pp.1-33). Elsevier Health Sciences.


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