The body is a complex series of systems capable of reacting to internal and external environments almost instantaneously. This results in the ability to respond and act upon the onslaught of changes happening to the body every second of the day. Biomechanics is the science behind deciphering how mechanical forces influence the internal workings of the human body. Clinical biomechanics is applying these findings to everyday movement.
The goal of clinical biomechanics is to develop treatment protocols and methods to aid in increasing the quality of life of individuals suffering from a health condition, disease or illness inhibiting the ability to move and function properly. By providing a “looking glass” into how the body reacts and performs, and applying biomechanical principles to specialized movement, clinical biomechanics can also be a helpful tool to maximize or enhance performance in athletes. This scientifically based practice is additionally beneficial in reducing or preventing injury.
The methodologies behind clinical biomechanics require a variety of medical professionals ranging from the physicians and surgeons to movement experts such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, athletic trainers and orthotics engineers. Orthotic engineers design custom assistive devices for problems associated with movement dysfunction or positioning issues preventing normal motion. An “AFO,” or ankle foot orthotic, for example, is a bracing system designed by an orthotist and fitted to an individual to maximize foot function. This can be accomplished by prohibiting ankle movement or supporting the ankle by limiting the range of motion when the ankle is no longer able to move appropriately.
Clinical biomechanics is the bridge between the research and the actual application of attaining proper movement in a real life situation. Everything from the range of motion and muscle strength of the affected body part to the overall connection of patterns of movement is taken into consideration. For example, when an individual has difficulties walking, the entire gait pattern is examined. The obvious problem may be the inability of the ankle to pull the foot up when the leg swings through, but there also may be some underlying cause, such as weak hip and leg muscles.
The use of clinical biomechanics is also an important factor in enhancing performance of athletes. Observing and assessing the way the athlete performs sports-related activities, or performing a biomechanical analysis, may uncover a slight abnormality in movement patterns. By applying acceptable biomechanics research theories to these subtle movement irregularities can greatly improve performance and efficiency of movement, therefore preventing future injuries.