Central to the concepts of balance and posture, gravity and antigravity muscles are the tools that provide us with the ability to maintain the centre-of-gravity (COG) within a stable base of support.
Balance is achieved when a vertical line falls from the centre-of-gravity through this base of support.
Any imbalances cause compensatory abnormalities which affect alignment within the entire musculoskeletal system.
Optimal postural alignment is vital in counteracting the constant gravitational forces opposing the body. When the two are in balance, muscles are able to function with the least amount of work.
Less strain is placed on the muscles, ligaments and bones thereby enhancing their efficiency and increasing bone density and muscle mass.
Opposing the effect of gravity, the antigravity muscles help maintain an upright, balanced posture.
These muscles consist of namely the soleus muscles, the extensors of the leg, the gluteus maximus, the quadriceps femoris and the muscles of the back. Additionally, the cervico-occipital muscles hold the head in an erect position, preventing it from rolling forward.
These also play an important role in the proprioception process, with proprioceptors in the plantar surface sending key information about pressure in the feet to the antigravity muscles through the nervous system.
Any weakening of these muscles combined with the continuously working gravitational forces leads to poor postural stability, which affects muscle function.
If left untreated, this ultimately leads to degeneration of joints and deformities such as a structural collapse in the foot.
Postural alignment is essential to maintain normal length-tension relationships of the muscles especially during dynamic posture, determining the ease with which the body segments align themselves throughout movement.
Any disruptions to this alignment throws the kinetic chain of the body off balance, making the person susceptible to a host of injuries.
Understanding our limitations at controlling the effect gravitational forces have on the muscles in the foot and its structure should form the basis of treatment programmes.
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