Stretching your arm to reach for a cup of tea requires the engagement of a series of muscles. In physiological circumstances, muscles act in a cooperative manner.
The concept of Muscular Chains developed by Mme. Godelieve Denys-Struif (GDS) has revolutionized my practice as a movement therapist.
Each person presents a very unique manner of arranging the different parts of their body in response to gravity. Their bodies become a reflection of the prefered patterns of movement that shape the muscles. Those muscles in turn acquire a certain length and will determine the arrangement of the skeleton.
In a physiological context, the muscles are engaged in a chain of action determined by function/origin and insertion, agonism and antagonism.
In addition to that, the muscles do not work in one plane alone. Observe the bones, they have lines of traction imprinted in them. The osteophites arrange themselves as the bones grow reflecting the spiralling forces determined by muscular imprints through their origin/insertion.
The forces of gravity and the antigravity responses spiral up and down constantly organizing the bodily mass in space.
By observing the projection of the centre of gravity and how the different segments of the body are aligned we can determine which muscles in particular are being preferred to organize that body in space.
GDS Muscular chains encapsulate not only the solidarity between muscles, but also it’s associations with aponeuroses and osteo/articular structures.
G.D.S. method also take into account the psychological and neurological aspects that shape human expression. For this presentation I will focus solely on a brief introduction to the muscular aspect of the GDS Method.
It is very important to understand that there is not a “good” or a “bad” choice in terms of what muscular chain one predominantly relies on. It is essential for the body not to get “stuck” in one muscular chain alone otherwise pathologies may ensue.
Another relevant aspect is that a person may combine different muscular chains in the way she/he organizes themselves. It is very rare to notice a “pure PM” or “pure AL” for instance. The movement therapy must take those individual variations into account too.
In lateral observation, we can identify three main ways of organizing the body in space (one of them unfolds into a fourth muscular chain), hence describing four muscular chains.
On the anterior plan we additionally observe two further ways of organizing the body in space.
I will start by describing the Posterior/Medial Muscular Chain, abbreviated PM
In this case, the bodily mass is projected forward, being supported by the posterior muscles that act as cables, anchoring the body down.
PM traits are: reduced sub-occiptal space , horizontalization of the Sternum (or elevation of the lower ribs), loss of physiological kifosis, horizontalization of sacrum, extension on hip joint, hyperextention of the knees, high arches on the feet.
Some of the main muscles of PM: Latissimo Dorso, Ileo Costal and Epi espinoso. grande e pequeno complexo; through Gluteus maximus, Semitendinoso and Semimembranoso, soleus, flexors of the phalanxes, plantar fascia, Long portion of triceps and the aponeurose towards epitroclea, flexors of the phalanxes, pronators.
(Please note that some muscles belong to more than one muscular chain. That happens because of the direction of it’s fibres.)
In this case the body is presenting an imbalance tending to the back due to hyperactivity on the anterior /medial muscles.
Some traits that a person presents when relying mostly in the AM muscular chain are: loss of natural lordosis, pelvis in retroversion “sinking” of the sternum, increased kifosis, exhalation attitude on the rib cage, head projected forward and gaze looking down at the ground, knees are flexed, feet are wide and they present bunion.
The main muscles in AM chain are: Perineum, Rectus Abdominalis, Pectoralis major (lower and medial portion), Subclavicular and anterior escalenes, Medial intercostals, hyiodean muscles and the anterior muscles of the neck. Secondary muscles that belong to the AM chain are: pyramidal of the abdomen, aductors and internal rectus, medial gemeo and aductor of the first digit, anterior part of deltoid, (belongs to AM and AL), braquial anterior, the deep fibres of short supinator, abductors of the thumb.
It is represented by the relationship with gravity and the antigravitary forces that support a body in space. They are responsible for the maintenance of the spinal axis, as well as adjustments and positioning of the centre of gravity. They are transitional muscles that make possible for all the other chains to act harmoniously. They also regulate respiratory and abdominal function.
In a balanced ideal situation this duo complements each other, showing no particular marks, but a good alignment of the body segments in space. It is divided into two different corresponding muscular chains:
AP (Anterior/Posterior) is the muscular chain that grants adaptability and makes possible the change in bodily attitude in the diverse situations we come across in life. It is the gravitary pull to earth that enables the body to gather energy and momentum for PA to kick in.
PA (Posterior/Anterior) is the axis, the ascending antigravitary response. It rectifies the spine. It is composed by deep vertebral muscles as well as the inspiratory muscles.
ANTERO LATERAL AL
This muscular chain expresses an inward folding of the body onto itself. It demonstrate a caved in posture. The hips are flexed and in internal rotation. The knees “touch”, shoulders are rolled forward and neck is sunken into the shoulders. There is a tendency to introversion.
Some of the main muscles of the AL muscular chain are: Gluteus minimus, IT band, tibialis anterior and posterior. On the upper limb some of the main AL muscles are: clavicular portion of sternocleidomastoide, clavicular portion of the pectoralis major, anterior portion of deltoid, subscapular, long head of biceps brachii, short head of supinator.
POSTERO LATERAL PL
In this form of expression the body is “spread out” in the frontal and horizontal planes. The knees show varus alignment, the hips are abducted, extended and in lateral rotation. The shoulders are wide. There is a tendency to extroversion.
Some of the main muscles pertinent to PL are: Gluteus Medius, Biceps Femoris long and short head, lateral portion of quadriceps femoris, external part of triceps surae. Other muscles pertinent to the upper limb that belong to the PL chain are: Trapezius superior and medial fibers, supraspinatus, medium portion of deltoid.