The Arm Pendulum in Gait
Because of the physical length of the arms and the relatively large range of motion in the shoulder and elbow in gait, any deviation from normal is detected immediately and attracts attention. The deviation can consist of increased flexion in the elbow, decreased range of motion, movement out of phase with the lower extremities, and asymmetry between the movement of right and left arms, either in isolation or in many more or less noticeable combinations. Although human evolution means that we no longer walk on our arms, arm movement has impact on our stability, balance, and appearance while walking. In addition, we can carry things, make gestures, or do other things with the arms and hands while walking. Despite an evolution toward corticospinal control of arm and hand movements, quadrupedal limb coordination persists during locomotion. We do not think about how we coordinate our arms and legs when walking. It just happens.
Individuals with deformity, limited range of motion, or movement disorders affecting the arm show a disturbance of the normal arm pendulum in gait. It can be difficult to understand the consequences of the primary pathology and the influence on the movement pattern as well as the possible development of compensation mechanisms. Studying the arm pendulum is important for diagnosis and treatment and to follow progression over time. In addition, our sensitivity to deviations from normal highlights the importance of arm movement for communication and appearance.
KeywordsArm movement Gait Motion analysis Upper extremity Cerebral palsy Symmetry
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