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Unlocking Optimal Movement: The Secrets of Biomechanics

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For individuals experiencing musculoskeletal issues and pain symptoms, can learning about biomechanics and how it applies to movement, physical training, and performance, help in injury treatment and prevention?

Unlocking Optimal Movement: The Secrets of Biomechanics

Biomechanics

Biomechanics studies all life forms and their mechanical workings.  Many think of biomechanics in sports and athletic performance, but biomechanics helps create and improve technologies, equipment, and injury rehabilitation techniques. (Tung-Wu Lu, Chu-Fen Chang 2012) Scientists, sports medicine doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, and conditioning specialists utilize biomechanics to help develop training protocols and techniques to improve therapy outcomes.

Body Movement

Biomechanics studies the movement of the body, including how muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments work together, especially when movement is not optimal or correct. It is part of the larger field of kinesiology, specifically focusing on motion mechanics and analysis of how all the individual parts of the body work together to make up athletic and normal movements. (José M Vilar et al., 2013) Biomechanics includes:

  • Structure of bones and muscles.
  • Movement ability.
  • Mechanics of blood circulation, renal function, and other functions.
  • The study of forces and the effects of these forces on the tissues, fluid, or materials used for diagnosis, treatment, or research. (Jose I. Priego-Quesada 2021)

Sports

Sports biomechanics studies motion in exercising, training, and sports, which incorporates physics and the laws of mechanics. For example, the biomechanics of a specific exercise looks at:

  • Body position.
  • Movement of the feet, hips, knees, back, shoulders, and arms.

Knowing the correct movement patterns helps make the most of the exercise while preventing injuries, correcting form mistakes, informing training protocols, and increasing positive results. Understanding how the body moves and why it moves the way it does helps medical professionals prevent and treat injuries, alleviate pain symptoms, and improve performance.

Equipment

Biomechanics is used in the development of physical and sports equipment to improve performance. For example, a shoe can be designed for optimal performance for a skateboarder, long-distance runner, or soccer player. Playing surfaces are also studied for this purpose, such as how the surface stiffness of artificial turf affects athletic performance. (Jose I. Priego-Quesada 2021)

Individuals

  • Biomechanics can analyze an individual’s movements for more effective movement during training and games.
  • For example, an individual’s running gait or swing can be filmed with recommendations on what to change to improve.

Injuries

  • The science studies the causes, treatment, and prevention of neuromusculoskeletal injuries.
  • The research can analyze the forces that cause injuries and provide information for medical professionals on how to reduce the risk of injury.

Training

  • Biomechanics studies sports techniques and training systems to develop ways to improve efficiency.
  • This can include research on positioning, release, follow-through, etc.
  • It can analyze and help design new training techniques based on the mechanical demands of the sport, aimed at resulting in better performance.
  • For example, muscle activation is measured in cycling using electromyography and kinematics, which helps researchers analyze factors like posture, components, or exercise intensity that affect activation. (Jose I. Priego-Quesada 2021)

Motions

In biomechanics, the body’s motions are referred to from anatomical positioning:

  • Standing upright, with the gaze straight ahead
  • Arms at the sides
  • Palms facing forward
  • Feet spaced slightly apart, toes forward.

The three anatomical planes include:

  • Sagittal – median – Dividing the body into right and left halves is the sagittal/median plane. Flexion and extension occur in the sagittal plane.
  • Frontal – The frontal plane divides the body into front and back sides but also includes abduction, or moving a limb away from the center, and adduction, or moving a limb towards the center in the frontal plane.
  • Transverse – horizontal. – The upper and lower parts of the body are divided by the transverse/horizontal plane. Rotating movements occur here. (American Council on Exercise 2017)
  • Moving the body in all three planes occurs with daily activity. This is why performing exercises in each plane of motion to build strength, function, and stability is recommended.

Tools

Various tools are used to study biomechanics. Studies are usually performed using a device known as electromyography or EMG sensors. Sensors are placed on the skin and measure the amount and degree of muscle fiber activation in certain muscles during test exercises. EMGs can help:

  • Researchers understand which exercises are more effective than others.
  • Therapists know whether patients’ muscles are properly operating and functioning.
  1. Dynamometers are another tool that helps measure muscle strength.
  2. They measure the force output generated during muscle contractions to see if the muscles are sufficiently strong.
  3. They are used to measure grip strength, which can be an indicator of overall strength, health, and longevity. (Li Huang et al., 2022)

Beyond Adjustments: Chiropractic and Integrative Healthcare


References

Lu, T. W., & Chang, C. F. (2012). Biomechanics of human movement and its clinical applications. The Kaohsiung journal of medical sciences, 28(2 Suppl), S13–S25. doi.org/10.1016/j.kjms.2011.08.004

Vilar, J. M., Miró, F., Rivero, M. A., & Spinella, G. (2013). Biomechanics. BioMed research international, 2013, 271543. doi.org/10.1155/2013/271543

Priego-Quesada J. I. (2021). Exercise Biomechanics and Physiology. Life (Basel, Switzerland), 11(2), 159. doi.org/10.3390/life11020159

American Council on Exercise. Makeba Edwards. (2017). Planes of Motion Explained (Exercise Science, Issue. www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/ace-answers/exam-preparation-blog/2863/the-planes-of-motion-explained/

Huang, L., Liu, Y., Lin, T., Hou, L., Song, Q., Ge, N., & Yue, J. (2022). Reliability and validity of two hand dynamometers when used by community-dwelling adults aged over 50 years. BMC geriatrics, 22(1), 580. doi.org/10.1186/s12877-022-03270-6

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The information herein on "Unlocking Optimal Movement: The Secrets of Biomechanics" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

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