Relearning to Walk
No one would think of walking as a perishable skill. Without practice and repetition, walking can become a sloppy waddle. This skill involves multiple intricate components of muscle activation and nerve coordination. The foot and ankle need to be well synchronized to complete good heel-to-toe progression after the heel strikes the ground. The knee and hip must flex and extend at appropriate times. Finally, the pelvis must be able to hold the entire torso up during the precarious moment that a person is standing on one leg as the other leg swings forward. Normally, the individual does not have to consciously think about any of this movement. Sometimes walking is worth a second thought, especially when it hurts to walk.
Foot and ankle coordination can be simply improved by mindfully thinking about flexing the ankle so the toes don’t drag on the ground as the leg swings through and mindfully thinking about pushing off after the foot has struck the ground. Many trips and falls are caused by the feet that get hung up on a rug or rock. Even the smallest trip to the bathroom can end in disaster. Consciously thinking about picking up the feet with the right amount of flex in the hips and knees can also help one avoid disaster. With enough thought and repetition of this mindful movement, the sloppy feet will become precise feet.
Taking this concept of relearning to walk further, the pelvis can sure use some extra thought. It helps to think about the pelvis as a “tea cup”. The brim of this cup needs to stay level. If the cup spills forward or backward, the low back and hips are thrown out of alignment. Another way to keep tabs on the pelvis is to place one hand on the pubic bone and another hand on the boney prominence of the pelvic brim that is right up front (called the anterior** superior iliac s** pine). Both of these boney landmarks should be even with each other. Typically and especially in women, the pubic bone is held too far behind the ASIS; that’s when a person knows that her tea cup is spilling. By doing a body check while walking, one can absolutely improve posture, alignment and walking skills.
Sharpening the tools always makes a task a little easier and more comfortable. Walking is such a basic building block to everyday life that everyone can use to sharpen this skill. Remember, walking is a perishable skill. Use it or lose it.
For more information about how to relearn to walk please read my article about the butt muscles.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.