Mirror Neurons: We are gonna piss off ALOT of people today with this post.  

How closely do your kids watch you? If you are a guy, how closely did you study the sporting greats like Michael Jordan, Joe Thiesman, Magic Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Carl Lewis, etc ? And ladies, who did you mirror yourself after?  When we are young we idolize, mimic and mirror that which we are surrounded by or that which we aspire to.  Every kid in my neighborhood had a Kareem Addul Jabar Sky-hook.  Heck, why not ?!

When it comes to gait, we model there too. In our practice we have seen, enough times to know it is not coincidence, a father walk into the office and his son have the same limp and swagger.  Kids pay attention, they just don’t model our 4 letter words.  Actions speak loudly and imitation is a strong method of learning and communication.

Humans have always observed other humans.  Observation, modeling and imitation are a form of survival.  If we want to socially understand, interact and survive we have to understand the actions of others and learn to assimilate, interact and react to others. Mirror neurons and the mirror-neuron mechanism are fundamentally human and necessary to complete these tasks of social interaction.

To this end, it is imperative to understand the gait cycle, both the walking and running cycles. The observer must know the normal cycles in order to identify the abnormal components of someone’s gait cycle. Once this can be identified one must know how to determine the cause of what is observed and know how to remedy the cause of the abnormality, not the remedy of the observed abnormality.  And just as importantly, the observer must help the client see and feel the pathologic pattern, correlate the causitive factor and help model a cleaner motor pattern. We find it very helpful to be able to mimic the client’s pathology to help them see and recognize it outside of their own body and then help them better feel their pathology (which is often an epiphany to them), model a remedy, and help them remedy the problem fitting the new pattern into a new non-pathologic gait pattern.  Once a client sees their problem, recognizes it, feels it in their own gait, feels the cleaner remedied pattern then they can cycle in a new neurologic pattern.  Then the clock begins to tick, and a new pattern will develop in 10+ weeks once a new myelinated pattern is engrained with conscious practice.  

* But one thing is clear, if you do not identify the source or cause of the abnormal gait pattern first (with remedy to follow), and you skip this critical diagnostic first step, deciding to go directly into showing your client how they SHOULD walk or run then you merely have helped them to develop a new gait cycle on top of the faulty old gait pattern which was a compensatory strategy to begin with around the underlying neuromechanical pathology (ie. immobility, hypermobility, instability, weakness etc). Whew ! That was mouthful.

Go for the root level of the problem, forget about the grass level appearance of the problem. Dig deep, don’t be a shallow digger. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Think about all of this the next time you goto a running clinic that is teaching what is supposed to be “better form”. First of all, better form for whom ? The elite running? The upper quartile athlete?  The mean? The median? Or, the first timer amateur ?  Telling people how running should look and feel, rather than looking for the cause as to why someone runs less than optimally is a big mistake.  The body doesn’t decide to run poorly and inefficiently, it chooses to do so because some of the parts are either twisted (ie. osseous torsions), there are remnants of old injuries unresolved completely, they are in the wrong shoes for their foot type, they have physical limitations from underlying weakness (which then predicate the development of tightness or altered patterns to compensate) or lack of body awareness. Think about all this the next time you start to ponder form running clinics and treadmill gait analysis at your local store or therapists office.

Examine your client, test their motor patterns, test their muscle strength, find the cause of that gimpy gait or running technique.

Shawn and Ivo, The Gait Guys…….. likely pissing off a whole lot of people today with science, logic and neuro-mechanical principles. And, not intentionally pissing folks off, just suspecting that a bunch of people just had a light bulb moment and are pissed at the messenger.

Another video link:   http://youtu.be/6s1ON7ZZQxQ   Family Performance by Warren & Kristi Boyce - Glenn Richard Boyce & Kayleigh Andrews @ 3rd Surabaya International Dancesport Championship 2013 (8th June 2013)

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