Knees and Winter Holidays


I was recently on a winter holiday.  As I broke my wrist at the beginning of January, I was not participating in some of the more adventurous winter sports leaving me lots of time to eat coffee and cake at the top of some beautiful ski resorts.

It was whilst at the top of a ski lift at Adelboden that I started watching the snowboarders.  They fell into two groups; the experienced ones who seemed to have the ability to get off of the chair lift, place their back foot on the board, although not secured in position, and slide along to the start of the run, and the others who ended up trying to manoeuvre their board with their back foot whilst the front one was strapped in place.

This looked horrible – see the picture above.

This group then further divided into two.  We shall call them the group who are going to be able to walk at the end of the day, and the group of inexperienced people who are going to go home complaining about snowboarding.

The group who are going to be able to walk at the end of the day manage to get into the position above by internally rotating their femurs.  The second group get into this position by trying to twist their knees.

I’m reminded of a talk by Leslie Kaminoff where he tried to look at how we should protect our knees by coming at it from the other angle; how would we try to damage our knees.

He suggested that the first thing we should remove is the protection that the ankle joint and the flexibility of the foot afford us.  Often on uneven ground the twists and turns never make it as far as our knee because the foot and ankle accommodate these movements.  Let’s remove that protection by clamping those joints in place.  Then let’s look at a way we can amplify those twists.  We could attach a massive lever to the end of the stabilised joint.  That would be a sure fire way to do maximum damage to the knee joint.  Obviously, what is described there is a ski boot with a ski attached.

I’m on a mission now to find a snowboard instructor and see how they explain what this movement should be to those learning to snowboard.

Is this yet another example of where a little anatomical knowledge could make life more fun?

A fresh perspective


During December I spent a short time each morning looking at things from a fresh perspective using this – my feet up stool.

It allows you to invert without putting any pressure on your neck – the way you are meant to if you know what you’re doing anyway.

Did it help?  Well, I felt better for it, but why?

Inversions are credited with a lot of benefits, a lot of which have no scientific credibility at all.   They are meant to affect your blood pressure.  The blood doesn’t all go to my feet when I stand so why should it all go to my head when I invert.  The body has a very complicated system of controlling your blood pressure.  It would be great to look into what inversions do actually do it but I’m not sure it would be significant.

I read the other day that inversions flush out your adrenal glands.  Your adrenal glands have a very healthy blood supply from at least three different directions.  I’m not sure why inverting would affect that and I’m not sure that flushing them out would be of any benefit, if I even understood what it meant in the first place.

What do I think it actually does?  Well, I think it might help with stress in the same way that juggling does.  When I invert I can’t really think about much else other than balancing.  I have to concentrate, I have to control my breath.  That would affect my blood pressure, that would affect my adrenal glands.


In short – its never just one thing and does it matter what it is if it works for you?

A gait too far

During 2016 I managed to destroy the art of people watching for one of my friends.

It was a similar scenario to one I read in a sports psychology book that suggested the best way to win a game of golf was to ask your opponent whether they breathed in or out during their back swing.  The over analysis would ruin their game.  So it was with people watching.

It was a conversation about gait analysis and high heeled shoes.

I pointed out that you simply had to watch people trying to walk in high heels to realize that very few people can do it. The plantar flexion needed to accommodate the heel of the shoes is beyond most people’s flexibility and so the knee has to move forward to accommodate it.  If the knee moves forward then the hip must flex to avoid falling forwards and so you end up with people walking with permenantly bent knees, permenantly flexed hips and wondering why their back aches.

She spent a morning watching people on their way to work and was convinced.

Walking is a very complicated process.  After decades of development no robot can yet do it.  It requires hip abduction and adduction to balance and hold the pelvis in place to create enough room for the leg to swing through,  internal and external rotation of the femurs to accommodate the legs moving one at a time, the coordination of all of the muscles in the lower limb to place the foot and then the muscles of the core to ensure everything stays balanced on this moving base.

I’ve often thought about running a workshop on walking. I face it with the same apprehension about running a workshop on breathing.  Everyone can clearly do it so why would they need a workshop on it?

The first breathing workshop I did everyone present managed to drop their breathing rate from 12-14 breaths a minute down to about 4.  I didn’t offer any instruction, I simply explained the mechanics of breathing, how it is designed to work, things they could be looking for to see if their breathing was working as designed or whether something else was going on.  Maybe it would be the same with walking?

I did try a little experiment at the start of one of my exercise classes.  It was a simple question.  From standing, which is the first muscle you use when taking a step? The class spent sometime walking around trying to work it out and then everyone one of them got it wrong, or had they?  The answer is meant to be your hamstrings, or any of the muscles up the back of your leg.  You release these muscles and you start to fall forward, you then bring your leg through underneath you and place it on the ground to stop the fall.  The hip extension of the second leg is passive, the glutes do not work when walking on the flat. But actually in that class we had some people where the first muscles they used were their hip flexors.  They did start walking by lifting up their leg and then putting it in front of them and that initiated the fall forwards.  They all had back issues.  They tried the other way and went away happy.

Which do you do? Do you fall first? Think about it the next time you are out walking.  Then try spotting it in others.  It brings a whole new dimension to people watching.

Pulled Elbows

I was once walking along with a Physio friend of mine behind some parents who were swinging their child between them.  She actually went up and spoke to them.  A brave women, but she had spent a lot of time correcting pulled elbows in young children, usually an unnecessary injury that can be so easily avoided.

Pop over to the articles page to see an explanation as to what pulled elbow is and how it can be avoided!