Am I moving/ walking right?

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

Moving right?

The most frequent question I will get from clients, or even friends and family seeking movement advice, is "Am I moving right?". Given how bad posture and not moving "right" is the assumed predominant cause of muscle aches and pain, it not surprising that the idea stuck and people are seeking to move "right" to help ease or prevent pain. But it is rarely as simple as that.

One can be moving "right" but still feel a good amount of pain/ discomfort. No doubt movement has a role to play in pain, but pain perception has too many variables affecting it. And viewing "wrong" movement as the cause of the pain may well form, what the pain science community like to call, a nocebo. Understanding a "wrong" movement is being done or repeated may have an impact stretching beyond the biomechanical influences that we perceive it to have.

So instead of asking if the movement is wrong or right, we may want to ask ourselves if the movement is "centrated" enough. Joint centration refers to the optimal positioning of the joint which results in maximal joint interface interaction and the greatest dispersion of stress through joint interfaces. The opposite of which is localized stress in lopsided joint load. The more centrated the movement is, the greater the chances that force is transmitted effectively through the joint without undue stress on either bones or soft tissue. Similarly, the more decentrated the movement is, the greater the chances that undue strain is placed on specific soft tissue and/ or structures to complete the same task.

Picture a vertical loading scenario where the knee is medially displaced to bias the loading of the lateral part of both the shin bone and thigh bone interfaces at the knee (while pushing the load into the medial knee structure and musculatures) versus a loading scenario where the knee is in neutral position with the load spread across the entire joint interfaces in the knee joint. The latter will likely form a more effective platform for force transmission through the joint while the former tends to load the medial knee structures and muscles more.

Bearing in mind that while we always move in and out of perfect centration all the time and capitalize on differing joint positioning, for whatever mechanical advantage it provides, it does not mean being decentrated is "bad" or being centrated all the time is "good". Being centrated more often than not tends to allow us to put forces across joint more effectively into the surrounding tissue. Since being in either extreme of centration versus decentration does not seem to serve us well, it is important that we seek a good amount of centration without being overly rigid; moving like a robot hardly enables us to more smoothly and efficiently too.

Moving like a robot?

So back to the question of moving/ walking with good centration, I will ask if there is undue loading for longer than necessary period of time (be it due to excessive or a lack of a certain movement) throughout different points in gait or movement. I will ask if the weight is placed on the inner side of the foot too much throughout the gait cycle. If yes, the medial ankle and knee will probably be required to deal with more stress than if some but not too much time is spent on the inner side of the foot. I will ask if knee and hip are folding enough to reduce the need for spinal flexion, which loads the anterior portion of the intervertebrate joint more, when picking stuff up from the ground. I will also ask if the shoulder girdle is hiking up and forward too much when pushing a heavy door open to disallow optimal load dispersion through the whole chest muscle and the stabilizing shoulder girdle muscles.

Movement, as it is, is complex with much nuances. But without complicating stuff, what you can ask is if the movement feels as though it is biasing certain side of the joint or specific muscles? If yes, does it look like there is excessive or lack of movement in nearby joints that is causing it? If yes and you need help working with it, you can always look for professional help. If no, there might more pieces to the puzzle that a pair of trained eyes may help you with it as there is always a cause for whatever strain or pain that one is feeling.

At the end of the day it is good to move away from the binary idea of moving "right' or "wrong" and towards being somewhere in the continuum of being perfectly centrated to decentrated. Understanding that being centrated enough without moving like a robot will be the way to go while identifying if you are centrated enough or not in movement will be a great way to help you optimize movement and reduce mechanical causes of pain. Move well and move often for a happier body.

Progressing your quality of life,