APPLYING SIMPLE BIOMECHANICS TO PAIN AND VARIOUS ATHLETIC ISSUES

There are a number of issues that can be addressed by applying some simple biomechanical principles to the human body. For example, many types of back pain, hip pain, thigh pain, knee pain, shin splints, and ankle and foot pain can be diminished and even alleviated completely when one understands the biomechanical CAUSES of the issues. Plato believed in exacting mathematics which is great but complicated, whereas Aristotle took a more practical approach to body issues and utilized math without numbers, which is the way I will explain biomechanics in this article.

If I said that I was an automobile mechanic you would have a good general idea of what I do. Similarly, a bio-mechanic (body mechanic) is like an automobile mechanic but applie their skills to the human body.

Let’s start with low back issues most of which begin as a simple misalignment between the hip and spine. Think of the spine as a stick and the hip as the ground. Ideally the spine (stick) should form a right angle on both sides as it sits on the hip (ground).This equalizes the stress between it’s sides and the ground creating balance. If the angle on one side between the spine and the hip is smaller than the other, the muscles on one side would contract while the muscles on the opposite side would stretch out creating increased tension. Not only would this create muscle strains but it would eventually lead to scoliosis (a curvature of the spine). This is a simple biomechanical analysis (the relationship of the 2 different angles) of the situation. If we could equalize the angles on both sides of the spine, we would improve the function of the spine dramatically.

So what could cause such a dramatic imbalance? Probably the most common cause is an uneven hip which might be produced by limbs that aren’t even, causing one side of the hip to be lower than the opposite side. Therefore the angle on the left side of the spine would not be the same as the angle on the opposite side. Muscles would then be overworked on the stretched out side associated with the shorter leg. The contracted side would eventually develop muscle adhesions and increase the complexity of the situation causing uneven compression on the spine (bulging discs, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, etc.). If we could level the hips, much of the lower back discomfort might disappear. Chiropractors usually address these phenomena however they usually assume the issue is caused by a “functional” limb length discrepancy. In reality there are 2 components to a short limb: a functional component in which the back falls out of alignment for a myriad of different reasons and a structural component in which one limb is measurably shorter than the other. The primary issue (unevenness) usually begins during the 3rd trimester and continues throughout the growth stage of our body.

The hypothetical solution is simple, just even out the level of the hips by improving the angle of the spine to the hips (by applting biomechanical principles.

Similarly, many other issues are created when the body parts to not align properly ( Iliotibial band issues, ham string tightness, cartilage erosion and pain syndromes in the hip and knee, shin splints, etc.).The solutions are often very simple, depending on the duration and environment of the issues. For instance, by merely putting a lift in one shoe the hips can often be balanced (although one must consider whether the issue is functional or structural- another discussion).

There are simple techniques for addressing the balance of the lower extremity that can instantly “cure” numerous issues mentioned above. Correcting the causes also improves athletic performance (reduction in running time, quicker starts, sharper cuts, more lift, increased throwing accuracy, consistency of strokes, increased power, etc).

Physicians (orthopedic, podiatric, chiropractic, physiatrists) and physical therapists who are skilled in biomechanics (sometimes difficult to find) can address many of the above issues. As a podiatric sports physician my diagnostic and treatment skills are b ased on biomechanical principles affecting the body.

 

 Garry Sherman, DPM, ABPOPPM, APMSB