Biomechanics

Biomechanics:  Is defined as the study of the structure and function of biological systems.  We specialize specifically in the study of human lower extremity biomechanics with an emphasis on minimizing wear and tear injuries and maximizing lifelong pain free ambulation.

Why is this important?

It’s our philosophy that weight bearing activity is most important as it relates to personal happiness.  Not to say that happiness is unachievable without weight bearing, but more precisely that if possible, the maintenance of pain free weight bearing can make happiness more attainable.  Ambulation is critical for maintaining bone density, muscle mass, and for cardiovascular fitness.  It’s also important for weight management.  Avoiding difficulties including obesity, hypertension, cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis will facilitate a more active and fulfilling life experience.  There are also well-documented psychological benefits associated with weight bearing activity.

In studying biomechanics, several things become clear.  First, the mechanics of the human body are no different than the mechanics of any other system in the universe.  We are not immune to the laws of physics and mechanical forces.  Poor mechanics in any system lead to undue and/or early wear and tear on the materials involved.  A simple example is a car with its wheels out of alignment.

Physical activity increases our risk for injury.  This statement meets resistance from some patients, but unfortunately, this is reality.  The more time you spend on your feet, the more opportunity there is for injury.  I often joke that we rarely get couch related injuries.  As we increase our weight bearing activity, we also accelerate the progression of mechanically related pathology.

Given that weight bearing activity helps to increase happiness but increases our risk for injury, it makes sense to maximize activity while taking a thoughtful approach to minimizing the risk of injury.  We see both ends of this story everyday.  Approximately half of our practice involves pediatric biomechanics.  The majority of these patients need help to reduce activity related pain of the foot, ankle, knee or back.  We also see children whose parents have already experienced mechanically related problems in an effort to take a more proactive approach at avoiding pain and deformity.  Parents and grandparents are the best predictors of future mechanical problems for children as they’ve directly contributed to the genetic code of the patient.  The other end of the spectrum is the adult patient who has, through a lifetime of wear and tear, developed a problem that needs surgical attention.  The goal of surgery is to restore a patient’s mechanics to as normal a state as possible.  Examples of things we routinely see include; bunions, hammertoes, degenerative joint disease and tendon tears.

How can we help?

On your initial visit, we will perform a thorough lower extremity biomechanical exam.  The evaluation will include a non-weight bearing exam, a weight-bearing exam and a video gait analysis.  Combined with a careful history, this information will be used to give you our best advice to keep you injury free or to return you to your desired activity level.   All of our physicians are fellowship trained clinicians and surgeons who have specialized in the lower extremity.  Our goal is to offer the same level of care that is otherwise reserved for professional athletes, to the patients in our greater Seattle area.