Kinetic Chain Check Points
I have been posting for the past two years on topics related to healthy living, but I have yet to give you a definition of what “health” is. I will attempt to do that today. According to Webster, health is “the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit.” Wikipedia defines health as “the level of functional and metabolic efficiency of a living organism. In humans it is the ability of individuals or communities to adapt and self-manage when facing physical, mental, psychological and social changes with environment.” According to the World Health Organization, health does not merely represent the absence of disease, but also reflects a state of optimal physical, social, and psychological well-being.
That’s a good start, but how do you assess whether or not you are healthy? In the physical dimension we use measurements such as blood pressure, blood lipid counts, percentage of body fat, and body temperature to assess where we are in relation to acceptable standards of health. In addition, there are dozens of postural, movement, and performance assessments that measure our physical condition and capabilities. I want to focus on one postural assessment and apply it to other areas of our life.
The kinetic chain is the combination and interrelation of the actions of the nervous, muscular and skeletal systems to create movement. All systems of the kinetic chain must work together to produce movement. If one system is not working properly, it will affect the other systems and overall movements.
Our body has five kinetic chain check points: feet, knees, hips, shoulders, and head. A static postural assessment gives you a “big picture” of how someone uses his or her body day in and day out. When performing a standing postural assessment, we check 24 areas related to these kinetic chain check points from three distinct viewpoints: eight from the front (anterior), eight from the side (lateral) and eight from the back (posterior). We check these areas because training with proper posture ensures optimum results and decreases the risk of developing muscle imbalances, joint dysfunctions, and tissue overload which can lead to injury.
One of the things we check from the anterior and posterior view is whether the knees are turned inward (valgus). Valgus knees are a biomechanical imbalance that can lead to IT-band tendonitis, Patellofemoral syndrome or an ACL injury. Valgus knees are caused by specific muscles that are potentially overactive (Adductor complex, Biceps femoris, Lateral gastrocnemius, Vastus lateralis, Tensor fasciae latae (TFL), and specific muscles that are potentially underactive (Medial hamstring, Medial gastrocnemius, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus maximus, Anterior or posterior tibialis, Vastus medialis). Our job as trainers is to identify these imbalances and design corrective exercises that address the over utilized and underutilized muscles. We use four interventions: – inhibiting (Self Myofascial Release (SMR) such as foam rolling) and lengthening (static stretching) overactive muscles and activating (active isolated movements) and integrating (active integrated movements) underactive muscles.
Enough of the technicalities; let me get to the practical application of how we can apply these principles to other areas of our life. I can’t address every area in this post, so let me use the example of a father who needs to spend more time with his children. This would be an example of a relational dysfunction.
First, we need to look at the situation from multiple perspectives. In the field of organizational development, they call this triangulation. For example, if a company wanted to improve customer service, they need to get the perspective from each of the affected stakeholders: suppliers, employees, customers etc. This would correlate to viewing our posture from the anterior, lateral, and posterior views. There are some things which you can only see from a particular vantage point.
Next, we need to recognize that we are not always in the best position to assess ourselves; we need others to check us out. In the book “Streams of Living Water” by Richard Foster, he states, “We invite others to travel the journey with us. Such persons become both companions and mentors. They provide us with discernment, counsel, and encouragement. Often, we are too close to our own training plan to see that we are overachieving and setting ourselves up for failure (overactive muscles – my addition). Or to see that sloth is setting in (underactive muscles – my addition) and we need encouragement to venture out into the depths.”
After we have identified our overactive and underactive “muscles” we need to make the necessary changes to bring the affected area of our life back into alignment. Which overactive activities do we need to reduce? This could be altering work assignments or schedule, or outside activities. Which underactive activities do we need to increase? This could be being home to eat dinner with the family, helping our child with homework at night or getting involved in a weekend extra curricula activity such as hockey or gymnastics.
The main requirements are to recognize that there is a problem, be open to help and commit ourselves to do whatever is necessary to fix the problem. We need to be patient with ourselves. It probably took a while for the problem to develop, so it might take a while to resolve it. Coming into proper alignment though is always worth the effort.
Perhaps starting the new year right should include a five-point “postural” assessment that covers these areas: