Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The 5 Stations of a Skier/Snowboarder, LAST but not least!!

Making our way up the chain, the Thoracic Spine (TS) is the last stop of the discussion. Following the alternating pattern of mobility and stability from our feet, that makes the TS an area requiring mobility.

1. Foot/Ankle - Mobile

2. Knees - Stable

3. Hips - Mobile

4. Lumbar Spine - Stable

5. Thoracic Spine - Mobile

This can be illustrated by looking at the gait cycle. When our right foot is hitting the ground in front of us, the left are is also in the forward position. The same holds true with the other side of the body which completes the cycle. Motion is a relative term, so the next logical question that someone may ask is that if the arm is swinging forward, how do we know the the TS was a contributor in getting it there?

While walking may be a simple task (relatively speaking of course), to begin to breakdown the motions that occur can get a little silly. That said, we do know that rotation is a large component of walking and ALL human motion. If rotation did not occur, we would move more like robots and less human-like (although this can be another topic of discussion). Specifically, when it comes to the TS, think about the entire ribcage rotating upon a spinal axis (imagine a large rod going through your head and spine). As we walk, our TS should rotate to each side and the arms just go along for a ride.

Tying this into the lower body. As mentioned earlier, the TS and the lower body are linked diagonally (right arm/left leg and vice versa). If functioning properly, this cycle of counter-rotation is intended to get your abdominals loaded or "on stretch" and involved in the gait cycle. If there are any deficiencies in the TS in terms of mobility, then this entire sequence may become inefficient.

Some common compensations include an exaggerated arm swing, side/side swaying (like penguin) and exaggerated hip rotation just to name a few. Interestingly enough, these compensations are all an attempt to get the abdominals involved in the task. While this attempt is successful, to a degree, it is less than optimal and cannot replace how the body was intended to function...in this case by thoracic rotation.

All the illustrations used walking as an example. While it is a "simple unit" of movement, it is not so simple if we really begin to break it down into parts. For us winter enthusiasts, this simple (or not so simple) task helps us get onto the slopes. Once we get there, the tasks only get harder!


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