Walking with Your Ribs: The Importance of the Upper Body in Gait.

If I asked you “how do you walk?”, you would probably describe stepping one foot in front of the other, or swinging your legs forward and back. Most people do not consider what happens from the waist up when they walk.

Have you ever noticed someone swinging their arms freely as they walk down the street? The immediate image that comes to my mind is of George Jefferson walking down the streets of NYC to the theme song of The Jeffersons. ‎He looked so relaxed, positive and happy, didn’t he? Now imagine someone that you have seen who walks with their arms glued to their sides with little movement in their upper body. Imagine how would that feel. Try it, just for a second. How does it feel to move your legs underneath you, more restricted and effortful perhaps?

So how important is the role of the upper body in your Gait pattern? ‎

In my previous post “Mobility vs Stability: The Building Blocks of Biomechanics“, I described an order of mobility and stability that occurs in a well-functioning body. The ribcage and thoracic spine should be mobile to allow stability in the pelvis, and the freedom for the legs to swing with ease underneath you as you walk.

Consider your body as a spiral, as you swing your right leg forward, your left arm should also swing forward followed by a slight twist of the torso to the right. The opposite occurs as you swing your left leg forward. This counter-twist is necessary to remain centered and balanced as you move to propel you down the street with efficiency.

Without the mobility of your upper body through the shoulder, ribcage and thoracic spine, our gait becomes rigid with excessive effort placed on the lumbar spine and pelvis to swing the legs forward and back. This becomes as efficient as walking in cement shoes, and leads to a pattern of pain and discomfort. An experienced Movement Specialist can help correct ineffective gait patterns to restore your freedom of movement in daily life.

Written by

Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, PMA®-CPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute

Studio Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

© 2015. All rights reserved. 


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