Movement Analysis' Role in PT and Performance
Before working for Perfect Stride, I worked as a researcher in a movement analysis lab using 3D motion analysis equipment, force plates, and software to track the movements of research participants during activities including running, jumping, throwing, and more. While this equipment is precise, it is relatively inaccessible for many physical therapy clinics due to cost, space required, and setup time.
When working with individuals who present with running related injuries or who want to maximize their running performance, tracking variables such as ground reaction force, loading rates, contact time, stride length, and stride rate can be extremely useful.
Our Dorsavi ViMove2 wearable sensor technology allows us to do this, and more, without the burden associated with complex 3D motion analysis equipment. We are able to use this software to track the above-mentioned variables with our physical therapy and running performance clients.
It is small, easy to set up, and get the necessary information needed to make clinical decisions at different running and walking speeds computed into an easy to read output. Alongside our examination and clinical decision making this information can guide our clients towards the proper training and/or treatment plans.
Using the Dorsavi technology helps us in many ways, but one of my favorites is to help in the reduction of loading forces and loading rates.
The relationship between running injuries and the magnitude of vertical force during running has been well documented throughout the literature. “Vertical ground reaction force” (VGRF) is the force that the ground exerts up through a runner’s leg when landing and the rate at which these forces are applied is called “vertical impact loading rate” (VILR). If these forces are applied too quickly and/or not absorbed well, injury risk can be significantly increased.
A recent study from the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy agrees that employing strategies to reduce VGRF and VILR may help to reduce injury risk during long distance recreational running (1).
Using the data from our Dorsavi system, we can cue runners to decrease VGRF and VILR, by giving using verbal and/or visual cues without having to over-coach. This is beneficial because it allows the runner to explore their own strategies for positive change rather than forcing them to create a change that may not be natural to them.
Some of the strategies a runner may use to improve their running economy is to increase their cadence or reduce their vertical oscillation. A recent study from the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that either of these changes can manipulate spatiotemporal running parameters, which may be useful in patients with plantar fasciopathy or patellofemoral (knee) pain2. In addition, the findings of this study suggest that running with a modest increase in cadence may be particularly helpful for runners recovering from Achilles tendinopathy.
In order to move faster during walking or running, at least one of two variables must increase, step length or cadence (steps per minute). If step length gets too long, it is common for runners to have increased vertical oscillation when running.
This causes energy to be lost to vertical movement, when the goal is horizontal movement. Thus, staying at the same pace, but increasing cadence shortens a runner’s stride and can reduce vertical oscillation and improve efficiency.
Research also supports that increasing cadence can reduce the risk of a number of running related injuries, likely due to the mechanisms mentioned above. Not sure what your normal cadence is? Follow the steps below and see if you can find out:
1. Download a metronome app from the app store. (I use Metronome by SoundBrenner)
2. Begin your run just like any other run and get in a good rhythm (don’t forget your phone!)
3. Once you feel settled in to your pace, take out that metronome app and set it to somewhere between 150 and 160 beats per minute to start.
4. Without adjusting your running, adjust the number of beats per minute to match your step rate.
5. Now you have your cadence!
If your cadence is lower than 160 and you are getting running related running pain, it could be one factor that is playing into your symptoms. Always remember, if you have pain, we suggest seeing a physical therapist.
The research spans far and wide regarding movement analysis, and it is a topic that will continue to be heavily researched in the coming years. As a clinician who has a love for movement analysis and research, I am excited to have access to technology that I can use on a daily basis in the clinic to continue to help clients achieve their goals and look forward to what continued innovation holds for the field in the future.
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1. Tate, JJ Milner, CE. Sound-Intensity Feedback During Running Reduces Loading Rates and Impact Peak. JOSPT. 47(8);565-569.
2. Adams D, Pozzi F, Willy RW, Carrol A, Zeni J. ALTERING CADENCE OR VERTICAL OSCILLATION DURING RUNNING: EFFECTS ON RUNNING RELATED INJURY FACTORS. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2018;13(4):633-642.