Science of TheraTogs: Kinesiology

Kinesiology is the study of the anatomy of movement with a focus on muscle recruitment strategies used in executing – and optimizing – functional tasks. Effective muscle action depends upon the status of brain function, somatosensory input, and postural control or stability maintaining functioning postures. Optimum muscle function occurs in the presence of optimum joint alignment and related muscle length and strength. [1]

Muscles serve upright maintenance and purposeful actions regardless of the existing functioning joint alignment – indeed, muscles are remarkably capable of meeting a functional need despite underlying bone and joint positional problems. When used tonically and for a long time in a faulty movement or balancing strategy, muscles adapt to use in shortened state by shortening. (See also Physiologic Adaptation, below.)

Sahrmann (2002 and 2010) addresses problems of muscle couple imbalances that result from movement system impairment syndromes. In muscle couple imbalance, one muscle (or group) dominates (eventually becoming shortened and overused) and its antagonist or synergist becomes dominated (long and underused). (See Movement System Analysis approach for more details.)

Demonstration

Walk with your lower limbs turned way out and notice that you use the hip adductor muscles – intended to draw the thighs together – rather than the hip flexor muscles – intended to swing the swing limb. Enhancing functioning joint alignment fosters purpose-related recruitment of kinesiologically correct muscles.

TheraTogs’ Role in Kinesiology

Rather than stretch the dominant (short) muscles, clinicians use TheraTogs to address the faulty underlying movement strategies – which provoke the imbalance – by:

  • Optimizing the functioning base of support – aligning the feet and knees in standing and the pelvis in sitting positions
  • Improving resting postures – the alignments from which the wearer initiates movements that are more developmentally and kinesiologically appropriate
  • Improving functioning alignment and stability in the trunk and hips or scapulae
  • Using strapping shorten underused muscles and letting them work in shortened state
  • Increasing the level of sensory awareness – and therefore, the recruitment – of underused muscles.

Maguire (2009) evaluated affected hip abductor muscle activity in adults with stroke while walking a) with a cane, and b) without the cane but wearing TheraTogs garments with hip abduction-assist strapping applied to the affected side. [2] Hip muscle activity diminished with cane use and increased significantly with the TheraTogs. The positive outcomes of this preliminary study have prompted a larger study that is now underway in Switzerland. [3]

Tip: TheraTogs are made of elastic fabrics. They are not capable of providing passive support to the torso. They cannot possibly produce limb motions. They provide flexible assistance to the wearer who functions in improved postural and joint alignment. It is common to find the wearer develop fatigue while undertaking routine activities in improved alignment. Antigravity muscles are being recruited in new ways and at shorter lengths. Caretakers can easily grant rest periods by loosening key straps temporarily.

References

  1. Sahrmann SA. 2010. Movement System Impairment Syndromes of the Extremities, Cervical and Thoracic Spines. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.
  2. Maguire C, Seiben JM, et al. 2009. Hip abductor control in walking following stroke – the immediate effect of canes, taping and TheraTogs on gait. Clin Rehabil OnlineFirst, published on November 11, 2009 as doi:10.1177/0269215509342335.
  3. Maguire C et al. BMC Neurology 2012, 12 . http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2377/12/18