| Article written on July 17th, 2015 at 5:27pm | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
Lower extremity alignment is crucial for proper function and performance of the human body. This means we need to take into consideration not just strength, but stability and reactiveness of our joints. In this post I will discuss some random thoughts concerning lower extremity alignment to help open your mind to some other areas outside of the too commonly considered, strength.
1. Having adequate strength in surrounding musculature of the ankles, knees, and hips is an important attribute. But often the strongest people still struggle with poor alignment and control of their joints. Why is this? Because being strong doesn’t always mean we will stabilize efficiently. Surrounding our joints we have prime movers, stabilizers, and synergists. All of these different types of muscle actions must happen simultaneously for proper function. Quite often I work with clients who are injured, have poor alignment, and are instructed by their doctor to strengthen. There is a good chance they will spend endless time strengthening a joint that needs to improve stability. Strength and stability can’t be used interchangeably when they require a different invervention.
2. Alignment in the lower body is largely dictated by ankle and hip control. A common term to describe the caving in of the knee is called valgus collapse. We typically view this fault as poor stability at the hip, but it can also come from the ankle/foot. Whenever the medial longitudinal arch collapses, the femur will internally rotate and cause the knee to cave in. Start looking at the joints above and below the joint which appears out of alignment. Remember, function at one joint is largely dictated by the surrounding joints.
3. How do your toes look? The feet and toes greatly impact every joint above it. Nowadays, we are forcing our feet into improperly fitting shoe wear such as cleats, dress shoes, etc. This can cause our toe position to become altered, which ultimately changes our gait cycle. A month ago I was providing injury coverage at a local ultimate frisbee tournament. There were several athletes with severe deviation of the toes from wearing such tightly fitting cleats. Not only will they distribute stress differently during the gait and running cycle, but increase the forces on other tissues that aren’t meant to bear as much load, predisposing them to overuse injuries. Don’t overlook alignment of the foot and especially toes, and seek out the advice of a professional before things become detrimental.
4. Reactive neuromuscular training (RNT) can be an effective way to improve joint stability and alignment. RNT is a technique used to exaggerate the wrong position, which causes the nervous system to reflexively improve the limbs position. Often with stability training, the brain needs to be the target of our intervention. Outside of muscle strength, specific muscles must fire at the right time to maintain the integrity of joint position. RNT is a way to improve the proper firing pattern which enhances joint position and alignment. Here is a video using RNT in single leg stance to improve alignment.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART