We are thrilled to introduce new guest bloggers, Jessica Trenkle and Rose McLean, physical therapists at Chicago Pediatric Therapy & Wellness Center – AMC’s newest partner. They are dedicated to helping all children reach their fullest potential through play and movement. Welcome to the Club! During Active Moms’ Club classes, our new moms always discuss concerns about their child’s physical development. So we asked Jessica and Rose to share some tips with AMC moms on how to facilitate quality movement in their infants.
Fitness trainers always stress the importance of quality of movement in exercise performance to their adult participants. Completing more repetitions is not better if the quality of the exercise is poor. Poor exercise quality could cause damage in a variety of ways, including:
- Muscle imbalances
- Torque on the spine
- Increased pressure on the joints
As children grow and develop they learn what movement pattern (e.g., how to turn, rotate and stretch their bodies) will most effectively and efficiently help them to meet their goal. The goal of a child is simple – to move, play with toys, and interact with friends. Some children may learn to achieve a skill utilizing poor movement quality, which can cause impairments the same way as it does in adults.
There are many examples throughout development where asymmetries and muscle imbalances may occur. The movement pattern that is developed and practiced at a young age can stay throughout a child’s development, which is why it is vital to catch – and correct – them early.
Example #1: Rolling
Between the ages of 3-6 months, children become confident rollers. Frequently, a child will roll in only one direction (e.g., always to the right). This early asymmetry can have a adverse effect, for instance:
- Increased flexibility and decreased strength on one side of the neck, with decreased flexibility and strength on the opposite side. This can cause spinal asymmetry as well as torticollis, which is a condition where a child develops asymmetrical tightness of the sternocleidomastoid muscle.
- Asymmetrical strength of the abdominals, hip flexors and hip extensors, as they are only using one side to propel them from their backs to their bellies.
Ways to correct: Encourage symmetry, even in newborns. Though children will eventually develop a hand preference, when they are developing new skills we want them to have equal practice to develop strength and flexibility on each side of their body.
Example #2: ‘W’ sitting
When a child ‘W’ sits, their base of support is very wide, making it difficult to transition out of sitting, as well as utilize their trunk and hip muscles. This can have a adverse effect on development, including:
- Weakened abdominal and hip muscles. When a child sits with their legs in front of them, they will have multiple repetitions transitioning on a diagonal over their hip, which strengthens their core musculature.
- Excessive torsion force on the femur. The forces applied to the bone by the muscles during play affect the bony development. If a child continually utilizes positions where their thigh bone is turned inwards, the leg may continue to develop this way and the child’s legs will looked turned inwards when standing.
Ways to correct: Encourage children to sit with their legs in front of them, cross-legged, or up on a small stool with their feet planted on the floor.
Example #3: Bottom Scooting
Some children teach themselves to scoot on their bottoms, instead of crawl, in order to maneuver around their environment. Though they can be very efficient, bottom scooting may cause:
- Asymmetrical weight bearing on the arms and hips, leading to muscle weakness in the under-used arm and leg.
- Decreased opportunity for strengthening of the abdominals and hip musculature. Bottom scooting does not require a child to transition from sitting to all-four’s over their hips, eliminating the opportunity for hip strengthening.
Ways to correct: Place your child in a crawling position and have them attempt to climb over obstacles such as pillows or couch cushions on the floor. It is near impossible to scoot over these hurdles.
These are just three examples to highlight instances where quality of movement is valued over quantity. Just as in adults, quality is important for children to develop life-long good alignment and posture.
Chicago Pediatric Therapy & Wellness Center, LLC is a therapist-owned, pediatric therapy practice that provides physical, occupational, speech and developmental therapy services in both the clinic setting and through the Early Intervention program. Additionally, they offer community wellness classes for all families to serve as a resource, networking site, and social center in the community. To request a consultation or for more information about CPTWC, please call (773) 687-9241, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.