Category Archives: Hip

The Long Femur and Squat Mechanics

The squat is one of the best exercises to improve performance, period. Athletes incorporate the squat into their workout regimen because it increases strength and power of the entire lower extremity and significantly activates the core muscles. Unfortunately, performing the squat improperly can lead to significant injury.
Without getting into too much detail, there are 4 main reasons why a person may not be able to squat with good technique.
 
  1. Poor ankle mobility, primarily dorsiflexion
  2. Poor hip mobility, primarily hip flexion and external rotation
  3. Muscle weakness/muscle imbalance of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex
  4. Long femur (a high femur to torso length ratio or high femur to short tibia ratio)
 Three of the above can be fixed with corrective exercise. This might shock you but there is no corrective exercise program that will lengthen the torso and shorten your femur (yes, that is sarcasm). Unless you are skilled at removing portions of the femur with a chainsaw you’re not going to fix #4.
Squatting with a long femur can lead to low back injury. In the image here you can see that the individual with the long femur has an increased forward lean. The excessive lean increases load at the low back.
I love the video here. If you move to the 3:40 mark the video shows an individual squatting with long femurs squatting.

It drives me bonkers when a provider (athletic trainer, personal trainer, therapist, etc.,) attempts to correct a client’s squat mechanics by forcing changes in items 1, 2, or 3 when the real problem is the unfixable number 4. Before you waste a client’s running them through a corrective exercise program make sure it is something that can be fixed.
If you have a long femur to short torso ratio you do have options!
  1. Widen the stance
  2. Externally rotate the legs
  3. Raise the heels
 If you continue watching the video (around the 5:30 mark) you will notice how the individual’s squat mechanics are improved by making subtle changes in body positioning.

All of these options change the lever arms and evenly distribute the weight between the low back, knees, and feet. Thus, one joint is not excessively loaded more than the others. You can try adjusting one of the above items or mix and match any three of the above.
 

The Squat: Should Your Knees Travel Past the Toes?

Should the knees migrate past the toes when performing a squat? I posted this question on downloadsocial media, and the immediate response by most was “No!”. I expected this answer from most everyone, from novice to advanced lifters. To you, I happily say, you’re wrong! The debate on proper squat mechanics will never die, but I am going to steal a line from Randy B., an athletic training, and performance enhancement peer, who answered my question: “Absolutely, [the knees] should [go past the toes]. Don’t believe urban legends or follow sports med sacred cows!” I couldn’t have said this any better! Randy is spot on. This urban legend could lead to injury. The purpose of this blog is to shed some light on the debate and provide the rationale for proper squat technique.

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POS: Reduce Pain and Increase Performance

SwingDysfunction of one movement system can lead to a multitude of injuries. Treatment and care for one movement system can prevent our most common ailments. Most potential clients I interview complain of one or more of the following: sacroiliac joint (SIJ) pain and instability, non-specific low back pain (LBP), chronic hamstring strains or tightness, and peri-scapular and thoracic tightness or pain. Whether these complaints are isolated to one body part or involve many, the pain can typically be resolved by treating dysfunction of the Posterior Oblique Subsystem.

 

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Butt Battle

A nice booty is not always a good booty.

A nice booty is not always a good booty.

Everyone loves a nice butt. Walking down the street, at the mall, or at the bar, there is bound to be a butt that catches your eye. Like a kitten following a piece of yarn, there is the occasional butt that walks by and causes heads to turn, leaving onlookers with a severe neck strain and mouths agape. Don’t act all innocent and holier than thou, we’ve all done it! Therapists and rehabilitation specialists are no different. In fact they can spend an entire day staring at booty. However, we are not looking to see if “Baby Got Back” or how that plump bump fills a pair of Wranglers, Levis, Seven, or True Religion jeans. We have a reason to look and it is strictly professional; is the little butt working?

For several years now rehabilitation journals have published articles linking a myriad of lower extremity injuries to poor gluteal control. While the glute max – that which makes our heads turn – and the glute minimus are both important, the glute medius is the real problem. We have learned the important role the glute medius has on controlling lower extremity mechanics. Glute medius inhibition precipitates many lower extremity injuries such as ACL tears, Patellofemoral pain, Iliotibial band syndrome, Achilles tendinopathy, plantar fasciitis, MTSS (shin splints), the list goes on. Rehabilitation specialists must pay special attention in strengthening the glute med., but how? What is the best exercise?

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Pelvic Upslip and Rotation: Evaluation and Treatment

Pop quiz: What musculoskeletal issue could result in chronic low back pain, chronic Chronic-back-pain-image muscle strains, lower extremity tendinopathies, periscapular pain and tightness, glenohumeral and shoulder girdle pain, or tension headaches? I am sure you can think of a few possibilities, but few can result in all. Often, when a patient reports to our care with one of the aforementioned we immediately think locally. Unfortunately, the real problem could be pelvic upslip, anterior pelvic innominate, or both. Despite being oft-overlooked, these malalignments are not hard to identify if you know what to look for. Continue reading

A Runner’s Story: From Pain to Performance

Photo_shoot_runningIn 2010, I left clinical rehabilitation and performance training. While I love my current job, I do miss the clinical aspect, which is why I seize opportunities to take on random clients with complex issues.  I’ve never written about my clients, but this case is so common, yet complex, that I thought my readers might be challenged with similar clients/athletes, or might be experiencing similar issues themselves. Here is a runner’s story that went from marathon training, to painful walking and an inability to run. Her experiences with continued failed treatment and the road we have taken to get her back to training and setting personal records. Continue reading

Knee Pain? Ignore it; Fix the Hip!

I have posted on this topic many, many times. Unfortunately, many still revert to antiquated rehabiltiation protocols. Thus, I feel compelled to keep talking about it.  If you or a client has knee pain focus on the hip, not the knee. There is so much data out there on linking decreased glute strength to knee pain. A weak or inhibited glute medius is unable to control femoral internal rotation and obligatory knee frontal plane motion.  These motions are a primary cause in knee pain – traumatic and acute. Today I discovered two, recently-published, systematic reviews to prove my point.

The first review examined 47 studies which looked at factors causing Patellofemoral Pain Syndromeknee_patella_intro01  (PFPS) (1). This review identified decreased muscle strength for hip abduction and hip external rotation as an important factor associated with the cause of PFPS. The pooled data also found increased Q-angle and sulcus angle to be factors – both of which have been linked to muscle imbalance.

The second systematic review was more specific by evaluating gluteal muscle activity – via EMG – and PFPS (2). The authors identified ten studies to be included in their review, with six of these studies considered to be high-quality and eight studies having a score of 8 or higher on the Downs and Black scale. The authors conclude there is moderate to strong evidence linking delayed or short Glute medius muscle activity to PFPS. The authors also state, “If gluteal muscle activation is delayed, frontal and transverse plane hip motion control may be impaired, leading to increased stress on the PFJ and subsequent symptoms associated with PFPS.”

Rehabilitation practitioners should note this when developing rehabilitation programs. Specifically targeting glute weakness and inhibition will limit hip internal rotation and obligatory knee frontal plane motion. Correcting faulty movement patterns will allow for optimal neuromuscular recruitment and joint kinematics, ultimately relieving or preventing pain.

If you are wondering which exercises will target the glute medius look at the study published in the recent JOSPT (3) and my recent blog titled “The Glute vs TFL Muscle Battle: Proper Exercise Selection to Correct Muscle Imbalance. The data represented in the JOSPT article demonstrate the bilateral bridge, unilateral bridge, side step, clam, squat and two quadruped exercises are best for activating the glute medius.

Are you ready to change your rehabilitation program?

References:

  1. Lankhorst NE, Bierma-Zeinstra, SMA, and van Middelkoop, M. Factors associated with patellofemoral pain syndrome: a systematic review.  Br J Sports Med.  2013;47:193–206.
  2. Barton CJ, Lack, S, Malliaras, P, and Morrissey, D. Gluteal muscle activity and patellofemoral pain syndrome: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2013; 47:207–214.
  3. Selkowitz, DM, Beneck, GJ, and Powers CM. Which Exercises Target the Gluteal Muscles While Minimizing Activation of the Tensor Fascia Lata? Electromyographic Assessment Using Fine-Wire Electrodes. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2013; 43(2):54-64.

The Glute vs TFL Muscle Battle: Proper Exercise Selection to Correct Muscle Imbalance

Reference:
Selkowitz, DM, Beneck, GJ, and Powers CM. Which Exercises Target the Gluteal Muscles While Minimizing Activation of the Tensor Fascia Lata? Electromyographic Assessment Using Fine-Wire Electrodes. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2013; 43(2):54-64.

Overview and Introduction:
JandaSyndromesVladamir Janda revolutionized human movement dysfunction and rehabilitation when he described three compensatory movement patterns as a result of pattern overload and static posturing. Most musculoskeletal injuries are multifactorial, but more often than Janda’s described three compensation patterns – upper crossed syndrome, lower crossed syndrome and pronation distortion syndrome – are the key contributor to our pain complaints.

Since Janda introduced this topic research has continued to answer what and why questions surrounding these compensatory patterns. We have learned hypertonic / hypotonic muscles and the delicate interplay they have on integrated functional movement. Studies continue to show how these dysfunctional patterns lead to our most common injuries – PFPS, ITBS, Achilles tendinopathy, plantar fasciitis, epicondylopathy, biceps tendinosis, impingement syndromes, MTSS, etc.

As research evolves we continue to fine-tune our clinical decision making. For several years now rehabilitation journals have published articles linking a myriad of injuries to lower-crossed syndrome, gluteal inhibition, and over-activation of the tensor fasciae latae (TFL). We have learned that these should be a focal point in our rehabilitation techniques to resolve lower extremity overuse injuries. The article by Selkowitz, et al., in the Feb 2103 edition of JOSPT is unique and what I believe to be one of the most clinically relevant studies to be published in the last few months. I liked it so much I had to blog it.

Statement of the Problem:
A common descriptor associated with lower-crossed syndrome is femoral internal rotation and hip adduction. From a rehabilitation perspective we must enhance neuromuscular firing of hip abduction and external rotation. In addition we must inhibit over activity of hip adductors and hip internal rotators.

As a health care practitioner we understand the delicate interplay of functional anatomy. The problem is how do we inhibit a chronically hypertonic TFL while activating the hypotonic gluteal group if they both produce similar movements? It is a fine balance we must be cognizant of when designing rehabilitation programs.

This study examined which exercises elicit the greatest gluteal (medius / maximus) activation while minimizing activation of the TFL. This is exactly what we need to know when designing a rehabilitation program to target lower crossed compensatory patterns.

Study Methodology:
Electromyographic data of the gluteus medius and superior gluteus maximus was collected utilizing fine-wire electrodes on 20 healthy participants during the execution of 11 exercises.

Results:
Seven of the 11 exercises -bilateral bridge, unilateral bridge, side step, clam, squat and two quadruped variations – demonstrated statistically significant greater muscle activation in the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus when compared to the TFL. Side-lying hip abduction, hip hike, the lunge, and the step-up were either not significant or demonstrated higher TFL values compared to the gluteal group.

The authors ranked the exercises in order of highest gluteal to TFL ratios. Clam, side step, and unilateral bridge had the highest ratios, while lunge, hip hike, and squat had the lowest ratios.

Clinical Application of Data:
Altered arthrokinematics and muscle imbalances are a common cause of overuse injuries. Lower-crossed syndrome is a common compensatory pattern that is associated with hypertonicity of the hip flexors complex, which elicits altered reciprocal inhibition of the gluteal group. Targeting this dysfunctional pattern using proper exercise selection indicated here can prevent injuries, improve patient outcomes, and restore optimal function. When designing your program be sure to reference the material here to determine a proper rehabilitation program.

Limitations:
Studies are equivocal on reliability of surface EMG vs intramuscular. However, the authors cite using the method by Delagi and Perotto, which appears reliable. Still one has to question specificity and sensitivity to a minimal degree.

The participants were instructed on proper exercise technique. However, substitutions patterns are common in patients exhibiting muscle imbalance. Any slight deviation from proper technique can skew the data. I am curious how closely exercise technique was monitored and what occurred when deviation did occur.

Summary:
Like I said from the top, rarely do we have a published data with such clinical relevance. Studies that show how deep ultrasound penetrates a rats muscle are great, but clinically have little clinical utility. Data revealed here will guide decision making on proper exercise selection and ensure they are applying the proper strengthening exercise to specifically target the underactive glutes while avoiding the over active TFL. Kudos to the authors.

Treatment for Pelvic Rotation and Low Back Pain

Do you have a patient with chronic low back pain, pelvic pain or lateral hip pain? The problem could be an oft-overlooked Anterior Innominate Lesion, commonly referred to as Anterior Iliac Rotation. This malalignment is hard to identify unless the clinician is specifically evaluating for body alignment.

Simply described, anterior innominate is anterior / inferior rotation of the ASIS when compared to the contralateral ASIS. This unilateral rotational movement of is often a result repetitive movement patterns. Repetitive movement results in hypertonicity of hip flexors (primarily the rectus femoris and TFL), hypotonicity of the abdominals, hamstrings, and glutes, as well as increased laxity of the sacrotuberous ligament. The force coupling caused by the hyper/hypotonic structures yields the unilateral rotary movement of the pelvis.

The result is a chronic, dull achy pain that is unrelenting at times. Pain is typically felt across the entire low back. Focal tenderness upon palpation is commonly unremarkable. The patient may also have complaints of thoracic pain, lateral hip pain and potentially groin. Pain maybe exacerbated with athletic activity, or static postures such as prolonged sitting and standing.

As with many postural disorders, treatment for anterior rotation is best served through the use of manual therapy techniques. In my experience, there are two quick and easy treatments: muscle energy techniques (MET) and spray and stretch. Spray and stretch technique is a nice way to inhibit and elongate tonic musculature. Ischemic pressure massage to active trigger points of involved muscles followed the application of a vapocoolant spray, during a passive stretch works well. Although both treatment forms are effective, I prefer MET, as it is fast, effective, and incorporate a semi-functional component through contraction and relaxation of muscle.

When it comes to MET (or most manual therapy techniques for that matter) I often refer to anything by Leon Chaitow’s methods. In this particular instance, I have provided a video clip of a MET that can help both anterior and posterior pelvic rotation in one treatment session. I think the physiotherapists across the Atlantic do a great job of manual therapy, thus I chose a video that was made in the UK.

It is not uncommon to relieve patient pain with just one application of MET. For patients with significant malalignment this treatment may need to be performed twice daily for several weeks in conjunction with traditional functional rehabilitation designed to enhance neuromuscular efficiency.

So, if you have been a patient complaining of low back pain, be sure to observe for postural malalignment. You might find anterior innominate rotation. If so, you can utilize these techniques to resolve the problem quickly and restore optimal function.