Good posture and a normal gait pattern are dependent upon a number of factors working together correctly and at the right time. We tend not to think about this on a day-to-day basis, as standing and sitting upright, walking and running are considered to be automatic activities, part of normal function, and something we do from an early age. We depend upon our body’s ability to co-ordinate muscles and joints, and use relevant information from our surroundings in order to produce the correct movements and control upon which such activities rely.
However, when abnormalities occur in the way in which a muscle fires or, for example, when an individual is not able to process information about balance, normal movement may not occur. Similarly, tight soft tissues, reduced joint control, and poor position sense can cause abnormal postures to develop, which in turn may affect the way in which an individual walks, runs and plays sport.
The study of the body’s structural alignment and the way in which it moves is termed ‘biomechanics’. Abnormal biomechanics therefore refers to abnormalities in the way in which a body is positioned and controls its movements. Problems may originate from any part of the body and, over time, usually have a knock-on effect to other areas of the body, which compensate for the original abnormalities. Individuals presenting with abnormal biomechanics commonly find they have pain and / or dysfunction within specific areas of their bodies, and these abnormalities are often attributable to many years of poor postures / positioning, abnormal movement habits and the resultant stresses on their joints and soft tissues.
It is important therefore, that any structural or postural abnormality is detected at an early age, as soon as it becomes apparent (preferably during early childhood), so that it may be corrected as necessary. This relies upon such biomechanical abnormalities being identified and subsequently referred to the correct health professional that specialises with such problems. As a child’s body is continually growing and adapting, their tissues are more responsive to change through external stimuli. It is therefore possible to influence the way in which their limbs and their posture develop by introducing specific stretches, muscle strengthening exercises, postural re-education and, if necessary, progressive taping and strapping techniques, splinting or orthotics (insoles) which should be issued by a Specialist Paediatric Podiatrist.
Physiotherapists and Podiatrists, who specialise in paediatric biomechanics, are able to assess a child for any postural and biomechanical abnormalities, and therefore help to influence the correction of any problems at the appropriate time, whilst the child is growing and developing. Certain childhood disorders, congenital developmental problems and neurological conditions may cause structural abnormalities specifically at the foot and ankle, for example talipes and Severs disease, or biomechanical problems due to altered spinal postures, for example as a result of conditions such as Spina Bifida and torticollis (see our ‘Conditions Treated’ section for further details).
As explained, such structural abnormalities have the potential to alter the way in which a child grows, consequently affecting their posture and biomechanics throughout adulthood. Therefore, early detection, referral and intervention are essential in order to influence and correct, where possible, any structural abnormality that has the potential to disrupt normal posture, biomechanics and gait.
Unfortunately, problems are not commonly identified by health professionals at an early stage, as associated pain is rarely reported by children. Ideally, all children should be ‘screened’ for biomechanical and postural problems so that any underlying issues that may cause difficulties for them later in life can be detected. Currently, this is not routinely done.
If you have any concerns about the way in which your child is walking, about their posture, or if you have noticed any difficulties or delay in their normal development, please do get in touch. If you are unsure at this stage whether or not you need to arrange a full assessment, we are more than happy to discuss your concerns with you over the phone initially. If appropriate, an assessment of your child can then be arranged with one of our Specialist Paediatric Physiotherapists, alongside a Podiatrist specialising in biomechanics, with whom we work closely. If your child is found to have any signs of a postural or structural abnormality, we can identify their problems and commence appropriate and prompt management.
Contact Sarah Joice (Clinical Director) on 07908 684441