Biomechanics is the beautiful blend between physics and forces that occur on/ within living beings/ biologic tissues. It is a field studied primarily by engineers interested in ergonomics, and physical therapists who go on to get their PhDs. It is a nascent science, and as such, we have a long way to go to fully explore the field.
Biomechanics (along with exercise science- which is the physiologic study of exercise) is the backbone of information used to create movement plans. It is (hopefully) the science every physical therapist is following to help clients create safe exercise recommendations.
I have always been fascinated by the field, and as many of you know, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Biomedical Imaging Lab back in 2013-2014. During this time, I worked minimally (just one day per week), following a brilliant post doc around the office and lab, Dr. Hsiang-Ling Teng on her Mondays. Dr. Teng is a PT as well as PhD in biomechanics, and is a professor at CSULB in the Physical Therapy Department. She is interested in using biomechanical research to help people find simple solutions to improve their long term health. She is also helping PT students understand the complex and ever changing field of movement science.
During my time as a volunteer, I would help collecting patient data on strength, movement in the gait lab, and help Dr. Teng digitize movement data obtained in the gait lab. I also came to terms with the vast gulf dividing my very basic biomechanics understanding with the science used by the PhD and post docs in the lab- it was a very humbling experience.
For our first blog of October, Dr. Teng was generous enough to respond to some questions about biomechanics, and suggestions for how you can stand on years in the movement lab to build a better movement spectrum.
Biomechanics is such an important field in our understanding of physical human health. Do you have a pioneer in the field that you look up to or who inspires you in your work?
Dr. Kay Crossley who is an exceptional biomechanist and clinician. I was inspired by her research to pursue my PhD in the field of patellofemoral pain. She has been a leader in the field for as long as I know.
*Please check out Dr. Kay Crossley's research here.
What topics within biomechanics, are the most interesting to you? And when understood, what affect might these concepts have (in areas like PT care)?
I am very interested in how small postural changes affect joint loadings during everyday activities. For example, my previous studies show small increase in trunk forward lean during running can effectively reduce loading at the knee joint. Runners with knee pain also show reduction in pain after this running modification.
What would you like for the future of biomechanics? How would you like to see the field of biomechanics grow or evolve?
As physical therapists, we frequently teach our clients how to change their posture during static and dynamic movements as a part of injury prevention or rehabilitation program. I would love to see more integration on how we can better instruct our clients to effectively modify their biomechanics. This may include using faded, bandwidth feedbacks via visual, audial, or tactile devices to inform knowledge and results of performance.
What biomechanical concept(s) do you wish everyone would know? Are there any movement science concepts that you adhere to, to best support your own health?
The application of open and close chain movements. Body weight exercises can make workout a lot easier and applicable at home.
Thank you so much for your time Dr. Teng, and thank you for helping to provide important information from the movement science lab.
*You can find more of Dr. Hsiang-Ling Teng's research here.
Happy (closed chain) Moving!