The last few weeks in clinic have been packed full of examples of how ingenious the body is at carrying on regardless. Unfortunately from an osteopathic perspective I only get to see these amazing compensations when they can no longer adapt and ultimately present as pain. I hear the words “my body has let me down again”. Well, the next series of articles are aimed at celebrating the body’s ingenious ability to adapt. Lets all raise a glass to those over worked and under paid body parts that sacrifice themselves in order to satisfy our primal instinct for survival. Today we begin with the case of the dominant eye.
No ‘eye’ dear
Yesterday was the second time I have seen this really rather remarkable adaptation in clinic. Before I explain I want you to humour me and feel this in your own body. Stand up (away from obstacles, traffic and small children) and close one eye. Now fixing your focus on something in the distance (preferably a mirror), walk towards it and experience how your walking gait changes. If you are not sure try it with both eyes open then repeat again with one eye closed. Apart from getting funny looks from all those around you might feel and see a few subtle yet profound differences. Notice if your stride length changes? Does the rotation through your thorax alter? Which side does your neck prefer to side bend and rotate? You can check in with every joint in the body in all 3 planes of motion and just notice what you notice.
Keeping a level head
Our bodies have certain default settings, one of which is to try and maintain our eyes level with the horizon. Sure we can tilt our heads from side to side, however as we subconsciously move and walk our eyes try to remain balanced whilst the body twists and turns underneath them. In essence even though our head is open chain in its movement (it is not attached to a fixed base of support) this desire for ocular stability makes it act as if it is closed chain (the head stays still and the body moves). When we have one much stronger eye the body is able to recalobrate by tilting and shifting the head to bring vision back to the mid line. The body has no option but to reorganise under the head in a genius game of Jenga that prevents the blocks/bones from tumbling over.
The complicated bit
Taking Gary Ward’s flow motion model of analysing gait, a neck that is able to rotate and side bend in only one direction seriously limits our movement options. Lets take one of the more simple gait biomechanical relationships and chunk it up into an example I saw in clinic the other day. As we walk (assuming we are not carrying handbags, phones , etc…..this is a blog post in its own right) our plevis and thorax rotate in opposition to each other. Stand up and give it a try. As you step forward on your right leg you should feel your pelvis rotate to the left. Imagine two spot lights on the front of your hip bones like car headlights.
As you step forward on your right leg, the anchoring of the left leg behind and the pronation/supination relationship between front foot and back foot will cause your pelvis to rotate left and the headlights to shine along the wall to your left.
If we now add an arm swing with the left arm forward and the right arm back you should feel your rib cage and thorax rotate the other way (to the right). If you are struggling to feel it try exaggerating the arms.
This opposition is fundamental in loading you core muscles that spring load ambulation making it appear effortless (think spiral line and the functional lines for those of you who have read some of Tom Myers work on the fascial system).
Lets take things one step further. If we assume the head remains still and the plevis and rib cage move underneath, then relatively speaking the head will have rotated left in comparison to the rib cage. This is a harder concept to grasp, but if you try turning your head left then without changing the position of your head shuffle your feet round till your head faces forward, you will notice that your rib cage will indeed have to point right. In summary when we walk the head and pelvis rotate the same way and the rib cage rotates in opposition. Phew that was a mouthful!
So how is this relevant to our poor chap with only one eye? Well, one strategy to bring that eye back to the centre line is to rotate and side bend the head. The knock on effect of this is that the pelvis is likely to rotate more to this side as it mirrors the head and the thorax is likely to be more dominant rotating the other way. The end result a body that has torsioned and shifted underneath the now centred eye creating a hotch potch of tension and compression between the muscles and joints. The chap who came into clinic had a painful shoulder, but he could as easily have had a bad back, ACL rupture, thoracic outlet syndrome or ITB pain as his muscles and joints reacted to his body’s incredible adaptability to having just one eye.
While a sore shoulder can seriously hinder our training in the gym, having only one eye and only being able to walk in circles would stop us even getting as far as the gym. Glass half full or glass half empty? Survival instinct at its best.