What is Tri-planar movement and why do we use it in rehabilitation?

Tri-planar movement means moving in 3 Dimensions.  Those include the sagittal (Forward and backward), Frontal (Side to side) and Transverse (turning/ rotational) planes of motion.

Why do it?  For optimal joint health and muscle development, both from the perspective of strength and flexibility.

We were created to move in many directions.  The more evenly we can ask our musculoskeletal system to move (bones, joints and muscles) the more successful we will be in our movement patterns and our activity goals.

Lets take some examples.  With respect to joints: if someone has an arthritic joint, or better yet, is trying to prevent arthritis, one wants to make sure that they are using the full range of motion (ROM) available to that joint.  If you ask the joint to move in the three planes, you are not only distributing force and load over the joint but you are also helping keep the joint lubricated by helping move around the synovial fluid in the joint (for those joints that contain synovial fluid).  For example, take walking.  You can walk forwards, backwards, sideways, with your toes pointed straight, pointed in, and pointed out.

Using the similar example, what about muscle strength and activation.  A good way to change the load on a muscle is to change the degree of the plane of motion it is working in.  For example, If you move from toed-in to toed-out you will move between using the outer ROM of your Gluteus Maximus muscle to the inner range.  If you are hiking a long trail for example, this is one way that you can continue to hike but to give the muscle an active break as you go.

Stretching the muscle in 3 planes of motion will also ensure that you have optimal length of the muscle.  This is one way to consider injury prevention as you will get ROM in 3 planes, instead of only asking more and more of the muscle in just one plane.  Increasing your ROM through flexibility will also help you to become stronger as now you have more muscle length to strengthen, train, and use in your activities.

If you are interested in learning how to stretch and strengthen in 3D please book a physiotherapy appointment with Zenia at Prairie Therapy and I will be happy to teach you!

Zenia Martynkiw

John Reinbolt

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