Movement Patterns: Compensating for Injury


Movement Patterns: Compensating for InjuryMovement patterns are developed, not inherited. We might have movement patterns that are similar if not identical to our parents and/or siblings but those patterns are likely imitative more than inherited. Yesterday I wrote about most babies standing up and walking without anything more than a cheer and “way to go” from their parents and these days it is the literal truth. In a different era schools taught anatomy and even deportment classes. Often mocked finishing schools that made girls walk around with blocks on their heads were doing them a service.

As I mentioned yesterday there are many factors that affect our movement patterns. One that is easily overlooked is the way we compensate for injury and then forget to stop compensating. It might seem silly but if I woke up tomorrow and decide that I wanted to walk with my foot turned out like it is in the picture above (A boy and his dog: that’s our incredibly sweet Ollie), my foot and hip might hurt after the first day or two but after a month I would be walking in pretty much the way the pictures shows.

This is what happens to one degree or another every time we get injured. If I break my pinky toe I will not want to put weight on the outside of my foot while it heals. This makes perfect sense in the short-term but what about when the pinky toes is healed? I realize that it requires a decent amount of conscious awareness but once the injury is better we have to realize the need to undo the compensation that we used to facilitate healing.

This is easier said than done as our brains are oddly designed to make us feel normal as we proceed through the world so there a number of factors affecting the way we process injury. I rarely find adults with wherewithal to understand concepts like this so how could we expect a seven-year old girl who breaks her ankle to make a similar leap.

Accommodating movement patterns to compensate for injury is a normal and healthy process. Developing the ability to understand and unwind compensations after healing is a subtle but beneficial skill. So many of the people I work with who suffer from chronic pain end up tracing the pain back to age-old injuries.

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The Shifting Role of the Pelvis
Pain is Not a Warning to Stop
8 Comments
  1. So So true ! I dropped something on my left foot about 20 years ago – I can still remember the pain of it – 3 years ago took up yoga because of the constant unbearable pain behind my left ear, and have learnt about my stiff (practically immobile) left big toe, stiff left ankle, tight left calves, painful left knee, weak left adductors, tight left QL, cramping left obliques, painful left rotator cuff, tight left scalenes, even the muscles of my skull are tight on the left side and my c2 vertebra is now a little displaced which is causing the pain in my neck. But the original problem (I’m increasingly sure) is my left big toe. The silver lining is how much I have learned about how to manage my body (with a lot of help from this site). No crooked old age in store for me !

  2. Thanks Jonathan.

    This is what I have been working on for years. Your Corewalking DVD and all your postings are helping me to regain and retain my uncompensated gait. It is an ongoing proceedure and some days I have glimpses of close to perfect gait.It is truly amazing at how easy it is to become compensated without hardly noticing it!

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