Arm Swing privides clues to gait pathology

Arm swing provides clues to gait pathology. We always talk about arm swing as a compensation mechanism. Here arm swing is used to increase hip extension in individuals that want to limit rotation of the lumbar spine.

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Eur Spine J. 2011 Mar;20(3):491-9. Epub 2010 Dec 24.

Gait adaptations in low back pain patients with lumbar disc herniation: trunk coordination and arm swing.

Huang YP, Bruijn SM, Lin JH, Meijer OG, Wu WH, Abbasi-Bafghi H, Lin XC, van Dieën JH.


Department of Orthopaedics, First Affiliated Hospital of Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, Fujian 35005, People’s Republic of China.


Patients with chronic non-specific low back pain (LBP) walk with more synchronous (in-phase) horizontal pelvis and thorax rotations than controls. Low thorax-pelvis relative phase in these patients appears to result from in-phase motion of the thorax with the legs, which was hypothesized to affect arm swing. In the present study, gait kinematics were compared between LBP patients with lumbar disc herniation and healthy controls during treadmill walking at different speeds and with different step lengths. Movements of legs, arms, and trunk were recorded. The patients walked with larger pelvis rotations than healthy controls, and with lower relative phase between pelvis and thorax horizontal rotations, specifically when taking large steps. They did so by rotating the thorax more in-phase with the pendular movements of the legs, thereby limiting the amplitudes of spine rotation. In the patients, arm swing was out-of phase with the leg, as in controls. Consequently, the phase relationship between thorax rotations and arm swing was altered in the patients.