Arm Swing: A Vital Part of Pain Free Gait
When we walk and run, swinging our arms is a vital activity.
We need it to free up our hips for instance as the left arm swings and the right hip and leg move, and vice versa.
The photo above of a runner clearly shows when the right leg is forward, the right arm is back.
Put another way: the right shoulder moves in the same direction as the left hip and leg, and the left shoulder moves in the same direction as the right hip and leg.
This contra-lateral rhythm dissipates forces allowing for smooth gait.
Yet what can upset this delicate balance (and I hope you can appreciate actually how delicate this body is that we live in is)?
The simple reason I see day after day is that patients don’t move their arms.
And when they don’t move their arms, stress builds up in the lower extremities.
Their hips and knees can start to hurt. Get them to start moving their arms, and they start to feel better.
Sometimes, the lack of arm motion is totally due to carrying too much stuff.
Backpacks may not be their generation, but they free up the arms, which free up the lower extremities.
Since I do gait evaluation on 100% of my patients, I pick up asymmetries in arm motion. It can be from pain in the upper extremity or neck that affects one side.
But, this asymmetry can be from uneven foot or leg motion, or compensation from short legs.
The moral of this simple story: if patients have lower extremity pain, make sure that they are moving their arms which may help ease their symptoms.
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