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From Foot to Spine: The Vital Role of Joint Mobility

Updated: 4 days ago


Man Running - Kinetic Chain Image

A single malfunctioning component can impair a machine's performance; similarly, restricted joint mobility can reduce our body's efficiency, leading to discomfort and impaired movements.


In musculoskeletal (MSK) healthcare, the importance of joint mobility is often overlooked, especially in conditions where the focus is on soft tissue restrictions. It's crucial to understand that the body comprises an intricate system of joints, all essential for optimal function. MSK issues typically arise from a combination of soft tissue dynamics and joint mechanics.


Understanding this interplay is vital for a comprehensive approach to enhancing MSK health and promoting resilience through improved joint mobility. To expand on this concept, the sections below examine key components of the osseous kinetic chain, from the foot to the lumbar spine, highlighting their roles in overall movement and stability.


Article Index:


 

The Osseous The Kinetic Chain


The human body's kinetic chains are a marvel of biomechanical complexity, where the integrity of each joint is essential for overall movement and stability. Let's explore how this intricate chain operates, focusing on critical biomechanical and anatomical aspects. Following each overview, we will provide MSR video demonstrations on addressing issues within different links of this larger kinetic chain, illustrating practical applications and techniques. So, let's proceed from the foot right up to the lumbar spine.


Foot Mechanics: The Foundation of the Kinetic Chain


Foot mechanics are crucial in the kinetic chain, serving as the foundation for all movement and stability. Proper functioning of the foot joints ensures efficient force transmission and balance, impacting the entire body's alignment and performance.


Subtalar Joint Adaptability:

  • The subtalar joint's ability to invert and evert the foot is crucial for adaptability across various terrains. This flexibility ensures that the body can maintain balance and stability, responding effectively to uneven surfaces and dynamic movements.


Midtarsal and Metatarsophalangeal Joint Functions:

  • The midtarsal and metatarsophalangeal joints are pivotal in shock absorption and force redistribution. These joints work together to manage the impact forces generated during activities such as walking, running, and jumping, protecting the skeletal structure from excessive strain.


Initiation of the Kinetic Response:

  • As the first point of contact with the ground, the foot sets the stage for efficient movement by ensuring that force is transmitted smoothly up the kinetic chain. This initial response is essential for coordinated motion throughout the body, impacting everything from knee dynamics to hip and spine mechanics.


MSR Ankle & Foot Demonstration

In the video Dr. Brian Abelson, discusses various anatomical structures involved in addressing ankle and foot joint pain. These structures include the talocrural joint, navicular bone, cuneiform bones, metatarsals, first metatarsal, phalanges, and cuboid bone. To alleviate pain in these areas, it is important to consider the function of the joints. Improving joint mobility is a critical component in effectively addressing the body's full kinetic chain.


 

Knee Joint Dynamics: The Pivotal Fulcrum of the Kinetic Chain


The knee joint is a critical fulcrum in the kinetic chain, facilitating essential movements and ensuring stability. Its dynamic role in force transition and stability is crucial for efficient and controlled motion throughout the body.


Flexion and Extension Facilitation:

  • As a hinge joint, the knee plays a critical role in facilitating flexion and extension. This movement is essential for basic functions such as walking, running, and jumping, allowing for smooth and controlled leg movements.


Stability through Ligaments and Muscles:

  • The knee's stability is primarily provided by a complex network of ligaments and muscular support. Ligaments such as the ACL, PCL, MCL, and LCL, along with the surrounding musculature, ensure that the knee remains stable during dynamic activities, preventing dislocations and injuries.


Integral Force Transition:

  • The knee is a key player in the transition of force during the gait cycle. As the body moves, the knee acts as a pivotal fulcrum, efficiently transferring forces from the lower leg to the upper body. This force transition is crucial for maintaining balance and propelling the body forward.


MSR Knee Joint Demonstration

In this video Dr. Mylonas demonstrates effective Motion Specific Release knee mobility procedures. These procedures are extremely effective at addressing the body's entire kinetic chain.


 


Hip and Pelvis Interaction: The Central Hub of the Kinetic Chain


The hip and pelvis form the central hub of the kinetic chain, providing a critical link between the lower limbs and the axial skeleton. Their interaction ensures effective force distribution and stability, impacting the entire body's movement and alignment.


Ball-and-Socket Joint Versatility:

  • The hip joint, a ball-and-socket joint, allows for an extensive range of motion. This joint facilitates movements such as flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, and both internal and external rotation. The spherical shape of the femoral head fitting into the acetabulum of the pelvis provides the hip with both remarkable mobility and inherent stability.


Muscle Influence on Joint Mechanics:

  • The surrounding muscles, including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, as well as the iliopsoas and adductors, significantly impact the forces transmitted through the pelvis. These muscles stabilize the hip joint and manage the dynamic forces, which in turn influence lumbar spine mechanics. Proper muscle function ensures that the hip joint operates efficiently, reducing undue stress on the lower back.


Pelvic Joint Balance and Force Distribution:

  • The pelvis, consisting of the sacroiliac joints and the pubic symphysis, plays a critical role in balancing lower limb movements with the axial skeleton. These pelvic joints act as intermediaries, dissipating forces from the lower extremities to the upper body. Efficient force distribution across these joints is crucial to maintaining structural integrity and preventing overload on individual components of the kinetic chain.


MSR Hip Joint Mobilization Demonstration

With age, hip joint restrictions become increasingly prevalent. It is crucial to recognize that hip mobility is an integral component of your body's kinetic chain. As no joint functions in isolation, limited hip mobility impacts not only your hip and back but your knees, ankles, and feet.


 

Lumbar Spine Considerations: The Foundation of the Spinal Kinetic Chain


The lumbar spine is the foundation of the spinal kinetic chain, playing a vital role in maintaining spinal alignment and mobility. Proper functioning of the sacroiliac (SI) joints and facet joints is essential for overall balance, stability, and effective force distribution throughout the body.



Spinal Alignment and Mobility:

  • The lumbar spine's alignment and mobility are significantly influenced by the orientation and movement of the sacroiliac (SI) joints and facet joints. Proper functioning of these joints is essential for maintaining the natural curvature and flexibility of the spine.


Facet Joint Function:

  • Facet joints in the lumbar region provide stability and guide the motion of the spine. These synovial joints enable flexion, extension, and limited rotation, playing a crucial role in distributing loads and preventing excessive motion that could lead to injury.


Sacral Integration and Pelvic Stability:

  • The SI joints, connecting the sacrum to the pelvis, are key in transferring forces between the upper body and lower limbs. These joints must be stable yet flexible to accommodate the dynamic movements of the pelvis and spine, contributing to overall balance and posture.


Compensatory Changes and Force Distribution:

  • Irregularities in the hip joints or SI joints can lead to compensatory changes in the lumbar spine, affecting the health of intervertebral discs and facet joints. These compensatory mechanisms can result in altered biomechanics and increased stress on specific spinal segments, potentially leading to pain and dysfunction.



Manipulation

Manipulation, whether spinal or in the extremities, is an essential aspect of musculoskeletal therapy, with a notable impact on force distribution and shock absorption. In the spine, facet joints in the vertebrae glide over each other and, when unrestricted, enable efficient force distribution and shock absorption. However, poor posture, muscle imbalances, or trauma can restrict these joints, limiting their capacity. Manipulation restores joint mobility, thus enabling the body's capacity for force distribution and shock absorption.


 

Graphic Image of the Lumbar Spinal Region

Joint Mobility Conclusion


Understanding and addressing joint mobility within the musculoskeletal (MSK) system is crucial for maintaining overall body efficiency and preventing discomfort and impaired movements. One of the most common examples is back pain, a problem in any link from the foot to the lower back that often leads to pain and dysfunction.


Each section of the kinetic chain, including the foot, knee, hip, pelvis, and lumbar spine, is vital in ensuring coordinated and effective movement. Proper joint function and mobility are essential for optimal MSK health, as any dysfunction in one joint can affect the entire kinetic chain, leading to compensatory movements and potential injuries.


Recognizing the significance of joint mobility and the interplay between soft tissue dynamics and joint mechanics, healthcare professionals can embrace a comprehensive approach to enhance musculoskeletal health. This approach, which focuses on improving joint mobility and promoting resilience, not only aids in preventing and managing musculoskeletal issues but also enhances overall body efficiency, reducing discomfort and impaired movements.


 

References

  1. Chaitow, L. (2008). Muscle Energy Techniques. Elsevier Health Sciences.

  2. Cook, G., Burton, L., & Hoogenboom, B. (2006). Pre-participation screening: the use of fundamental movements as an assessment of function - part 1. North American journal of sports physical therapy: NAJSPT, 1(2), 62–72.

  3. Dutton, M. (2012). Orthopaedic Examination, Evaluation, and Intervention. McGraw-Hill Medical.

  4. Greenman, P. E. (1996). Principles of Manual Medicine. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

  5. Hall, S. J. (2014). Basic Biomechanics. McGraw-Hill Education.

  6. Hengeveld, E., & Banks, K. (2013). Maitland's Peripheral Manipulation. Elsevier Health Sciences.

  7. Jull, G., & Moore, A. (2017). Grieve's modern musculoskeletal physiotherapy. Elsevier Health Sciences.

  8. Kisner, C., & Colby, L. A. (2012). Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques. F.A. Davis Company.

  9. Latash, M. L., & Zatsiorsky, V. M. (2015). Biomechanics and Motor Control: Defining Central Concepts. Academic Press.

  10. Magee, D. J. (2014). Orthopedic Physical Assessment. Elsevier Health Sciences.

  11. Maitland, G. D. (2005). Maitland's Vertebral Manipulation. Elsevier Health Sciences.

  12. Myers, T. W. (2014). Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists. Churchill Livingstone.

  13. Neumann, D. A. (2016). Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Rehabilitation. Elsevier Health Sciences.

  14. Palastanga, N., & Soames, R. (2012). Anatomy and Human Movement: Structure and Function. Elsevier Health Sciences.

  15. Petty, N. J., & Moore, A. P. (2011). Neuromusculoskeletal Examination and Assessment: A Handbook for Therapists. Churchill Livingstone.

  16. Sahrmann, S. (2014). Movement System Impairment Syndromes of the Extremities, Cervical and Thoracic Spines. Elsevier Health Sciences.


 
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DR. BRIAN ABELSON DC. - The Author


Photo of Dr. Brian Abelson

Dr. Abelson is dedicated to using evidence-based practices to improve musculoskeletal health. At Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he combines the latest research with a compassionate, patient-focused approach. As the creator of the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems, he aims to educate and share techniques to benefit the broader healthcare community. His work continually emphasizes patient-centred care and advancing treatment methods.



 


MSR Instructor Mike Burton Smiling

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