Ever had a patient walk without swinging their arms? I’ve recently had a run of patients that had limited or absent arm swing when walking. These patients also struggled to add arm movements when stepping over tall obstacles, going up/down stairs, or weight shifting forward and back. Knowing that arm movements are important for gait efficiency and balance, I wanted to help these patients regain normal arm swing when walking and moving.
With traditional cues to move the left arm forward with the left foot, and vice versa, I noticed that patients were struggling to process my teaching - too many words or unfamiliar directions, I’m not sure. Not one to give up easily, I started to cue these patients to channel their inner John Travolta (from “Saturday Night Fever”) or Jimmy Walker from “Good Times.” These characters were superfly. They were larger than life. They walked with more confidence and bigger arm swings. More importantly they provided a visual reference for what I wanted my patients to do. After a chuckle or two, they channeled their inner superfly tendencies, and started to walk and move with bigger arm movements. End result was smoother gait, better balance when stepping over obstacles, and more efficient motions when reaching and weight shifting.
NOTE: Younger therapists might wonder who these people are, or what shows I am referencing – don’t worry, your patients will know them. If not, the best modern comparison I can think of would be to ask for a little more "swagger."
Author is Shane Haas, PT, MSIE of ADL Balance - please send comments or questions to shane@ADLbalance.com.