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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Westerns were always great fun to watch, the bad guys take the upper hand for most of the film and then, when the clichés started running out as fast as the bullets, the good guys get the upper hand and come out on top. The End. You can see why I am not in the film scripting business. But one question that's been on my mind for a long time, how did cowboys get to walk so differently from the rest of us? Was it because the belly of the horse moulded the legs into their shape, or the lack of padding in their trousers being the cause, perhaps those heal-spurs are to blame?

Our bodies adapt in the way we use them, look at tennis players for instance, their serving arm is much larger than the other. The same happens throughout sports, as it does to the cowboy in our story. So what is the typical image we have of a cowboy? Bowed legs, swagger of a walk (maybe that's just to look tough, but we'll give it to them), frown on the forehead, looking through squinted eyes in the bright sunlight. Most these can be attributed to other walks of life, bar the bow in the legs.

What's going on? When we walk/run the outside of the legs need to have some very strong support, this comes in the form of the ITB or illiotibial band (which most runners have heard about). If we place more load on this band, as we see with muscle imbalances in faulty biomechancis, the band will be taking up more load, possibly thicken up and definitely cause problems.

In horse riders, the ITB is not as thick as in runners, in fact the inside of their thighs (where their adductors are) is where they have this thick supporting band because of the dynamics of squeezing in the knees.

Using the bow and arrow idea, with our leg as the stick and the "band" (whether inside or outside the leg) as the string of the bow, we can start seeing why the knees either dip in or out if one side is tighter than the other, or one side offering less support. Of course there are other factors which cause our knees to go in or out! But how we use our bodies or lack of support in key areas can bring on niggles such as ITB friction syndrome.

There we have our version of why Cowboys walk the way the do, their bows bend in a different direction to a runners bow.

Peta McSharry

Peta McSharry is an experienced Sports and Remedial Massage therapist living in London who has been treating clients since 2004 and teaching bodywork since 2006. Her therapy is based on a good grounding in sports along with a structural approach to resolving issues.

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Sports Massage Zone - Moorgate, Liverpool Street, Bank EC2
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