What is the Kinetic Chain?

What is the Kinetic Chain?

It sounds like a new kind of line dance, but unfortunately it is not that exciting. I am sure you have heard the song “The foot bone is connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone is connected to the leg bone…” Well, that pretty much sums up the kinetic chain. Thanks for reading.

Well, I wish it was that simple. The basis behind the kinetic chain is that everything in the body is connected. This is accomplished through an elaborate array of muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and fascia (connective tissue). Believe it or not, everything is connected together to keep the body in balance. This is noticed most often in sports related injuries. For example, a pitcher may complain of elbow or shoulder pain, but the problem may actually stem from weak hip muscles. You see when a pitcher throws a ball, he or she uses their entire body to generate the force for the pitch (especially during the ‘windup’ and ‘cocking’ phases of throwing). If, however, the hip muscles are weak a few things may happen. First, the body will be unstable standing on one leg and unable to completely generate full force during the windup and cocking phases. Second, during the throwing phase momentum will be lost due to an ‘unstable’ pelvis. Finally, the pitcher will have to compensate for a weaker pitch by ‘throwing harder’ from the upper body, hence placing more stress on the shoulder and elbow. Make sense, or at least sort of?

Sports injuries are not the only place where the kinetic chain comes into play. Simple back pain is a great example. Sometimes low back pain is actually being caused by knee arthritis. With knee arthritis, your body will alter the normal mechanics of walking to offload some weight and stress from the painful knee. This leads to various changes in your walking pattern, such as limping. These changes will result abnormal movement of the pelvis and lumbar spine. If this occurs for a prolonged period of time and/or in the setting of underlying lumbar degeneration, low back pain can occur….but the actual cause is the knee.

While you may not believe that a butterfly flapping its wings in California can change the weather in China, hopefully you can begin to understand the concept of how an injury in one location of the body may actually manifest as dysfunction in a remote part of the body. This is another reason why sometimes making a diagnosis or developing a treatment plan can be especially challenging.

Citations

  • Moezy A, Sepehrifar S, Solaymani Dodaran M. The effects of scapular stabilization based exercise therapy on pain, posture, flexibility and shoulder mobility in patients with shoulder impingement syndrome: a controlled randomized clinical trial. Med J Islam Repub Iran. 2014;28:87. PubMed PMID: 25664288

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