Compensatory Movement Patterns

Know different postures you will see inside and out!

It seems like there are a bazillion different types of postural presentations. Is there any way to simplify the confusion?

Interestingly enough, things like flat back, extreme kyphosis, and even the common compensatory pattern can be explained through the movement lens we discuss on a weekly basis.

All of these postural deviations are compensations atop of compensations

How bad do you want to be able to
1) identify these postural strategies

and most importantly,

2) know how to best improve these compensations?

If it’s bad (I’m talkin’ reaaaaaaal bad), then check out Movement debrief Episode 124.

Below is a copy of the video for your viewing pleasure, and audio if you can’t stand looking at me.


and the audio version:  

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Zac Cupples iTunes

Show notes

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Analysis of Preexistent Vertebral Rotation in the Normal Spine – This study demonstrates a normal spine has a rightward rotation about it

The Relation Between Organ Anatomy and Pre-Existent Vertebral Rotation in the Normal Spine: Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study in Humans With Situs Inversus Totalis – This study shows that normal rotation mentioned above is reversed when the organ anatomy is reversed. This finding indicates that any type of lateralization is likely influenced by our internal anatomy

Zink Common Compensatory Pattern – This is the pattern J-Bird was referring to. Likely influenced by organ anatomy per above.

Below is a picture of the different postural presentations mentioned in the questions:

Join the compensation nation! (photo credit: Sportex)

A great move for swayback posture is the decline quadruped on elbows:

If you need to restore spinal curves posteriorly, then you’ll definitely want to try the drunken turtle:

Basic Physics: A Self-Teaching Guide – This book is amazing when it comes to learning physics.

The sidelying tilt progression is great for wide infrasternal angles:

If you want a great way to beef up your squat, a goblet hold is a great starting point:

If you want to learn about a Dowager’s Humps, check out this debrief.

If you want to learn about which compensatory strategy to prioritize, check out this debrief.

The Lewitt pullover is a great move for a wide infrasternal angle with a concentric bias on the frontside of the body:

The home security system is a great analogy to explain how persistent pain works:

The Common Compensatory Pattern (1:08)

Big Z, can you discuss the common compensatory pattern and its value or commonalities on your thought process?

Spinal postures (7:43)

How are the following different postural compensations related to the ISAs?

  1. Swayback
  2. Flatback
  3. Deep arch?
  4. Hyperkyphosis?

Layers of Movement Compensations (20:22)

As I’ve learned more about unpacking compensatory layers I’ve started wondering when you may have a loss of return for certain rehab moves.

For instance…Let’s say you have a wide ISA who needs dorsal-rostral expansion as well as pump handle mechanics.

So what if we put them in a side plank position with a towel under the thumb of the planking arm AND we put the off-hand up overhead somewhere at a 120-180 reach simultaneously? Would having both actions going on at the same time be counterproductive as long as we could effectively manage air pressure? Or is it simply too much to focus on for most people? OR is it just smarter to attack dorsal rostral expansion first and pump-handle as a second move or even a later project? And does this context change for someone who is simply training for their ISA bias versus someone who is trying to unravel compensatory strategies and regain movement options?

Should I change my movement strategies? (29:17)

How do you determine whether or not a strategy should be continually overcome?

How do you differentiate between a strategy that is protecting a site or is necessary to retain some degree of function (ex. Like some form of compressive strategy to maintain stability in the presence of a shoulder labral tear) vs. a strategy that needs to be overcome as it is compensatory or an interference?

The reason I ask is sometimes I feel better transiently after my appt with Mike, but it kinda strikes back with a vengeance a few hours after.

I appreciate your input.

Sum Up

  • Lateralization is present in all of us, but the first focus area should be bilateral exercise and motor control.
  • Spinal compensations can happen with both wide and narrow infrasternal angles. The goal should be to improve movement options.
  • Focus on superficial compensations before deep ones.
  • Persistent pain or other sensitizations are likely to respond in many ways when there is a homeostatic disruption. Perform graded exposure to activity to favorably adapt over time.

Photo credit: Tilman Haerdle