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How walking the wrong way is crippling you: a detailed understanding

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

Our “How to Walk Correctly” video has been a hit for some mysterious reason. When I uploaded it, the goal was for our current patient population to just emphasize the “PUSH” part of the gait hence the focus around the hips. We wanted to keep it simple because walking is a more complex pattern that stems from our developmental years as an infant.

Using our low-budget small handheld camera, we never expected to accrue near 1.5 million views in the 7 year period.

For those interested in further details, our gait can be pieced together from our rolling/crawling days. Efficient strong movements are drilled into energy saving injury free habits and bad habits into injury plagued compensations, and the essential muscles it takes for a more efficient gait pattern.

Just to be clear, our goal is to “fall forward and catch ourselves” with every step. It takes an ideal posture to start this habit.

Our Development:

During our developmental period, infants learn the coordination and timing components of the trunk and limbs.

Physical therapists’ trained eyes can spot interesting gait habits: how a foot strikes, whether the abdomen engages or if you are swinging your arms too much to compensate.

In early development, children who do not roll symmetrically and/or crawl unevenly (don’t fully work at the timing of when the hands and knees hit the floor) often have gait abnormalities in adolescence and adulthood. For example, if a child pushes with their heels to accomplish a roll, they will very likely have a more “extended” posture (one with an anterior pelvic tilt) as they age.

Even though you may have not rolled or crawled efficiently as a child, you can still work on changing these habits in adulthood. Watch our rolling and crawling videos below to see how you might be able to change these bad habits.

The Bad Habits:

Bad physical habits get us in trouble and then start a vicious cycle of compensations and imbalances. Symmetry is the name of our game, just like in Leonardo da Vinci’s body picture depicted below. Actions like side sleeping (see our video below), crossing legs knee over the knee or the figure 4 crossing can create torque in the trunk that causes the abdominal obliques to be more dominant on one side. Think of a towel being twisted where the most pressure created is in the center aka the lower back.

Awareness of proper standing habits, remaining balanced and pelvic alignment will set up the snowball effect of every step after.

The Muscular Essentials that keep our walking pattern in sync:

In the Legs

1. The Hamstrings

2. Soleus-calf

Think of a rocket that goes up or shoots forward where does propulsion come from? The posterior (ie your legs)! Propelling forward on every step and staying upright requires these muscles. This is why I focused on the push off in our original walking video. It’s possibly the most important component of walking. There are great hamstring exercises like the heel slide and hip holds that help us further propagate a good “push off”.

In the Trunk/Core

3. Abdominal obliques and other core muscles

To balance out our legs propelling forward our stomach muscles have to engage to keep us from tipping over. The obliques further illicit a rotational response to clear our pelvis, hips, and knees and give our one leg swinging forward a chance to relax before the feet strike the floor again. You can work on engaging the proper muscles using the exercise below!

In the Upper Body

4. Shoulder blade stabilizers

The shoulder blades actually balance out our legs and core muscles by preventing our body from over rotating during the leg swing. Specifically, the rhomboid muscles act as our checks-and-balances system and prevent any one muscle group from taking over. You can try the exercise below if you would like to work on stabilizing these muscles.

Try out these tips and see if they work for you! We believe walking is one of the most repetitive things that we do. So if we can make that as efficient and seamless as possible, it will set you up for a happy, healthy body!

We heal smarter, not harder!

Dr. Justin C. Lin

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