Let’s talk about one of the grooviest areas of your body: the outside edge, your lateral lines. This kinetic chain of muscles/ligaments/tendons is responsible for your movement side to side hence the reason why it’s often called your “Fish Lines.” Your Lateral Lines are also HUGE when it comes to stability.
I know what you are already thinking… “movement side to side eh? Will this improve my dancing game?” Probably haha! The info we’ll talk about here may just give you your groove back, or at least accent what you already have.
The Breakdown of this Lateral Line Series:
- Part I we’ll take a look at the anatomy of your legs hips along the Lateral Line and discuss common dysfunction along the chain.
- Part II will finish the anatomy on the Torso, Shoulders, Head & Neck.
- Part III will be chock full of exercises geared towards opening & releasing, activating, and strengthening your Lateral Lines.
Get out your dancing pants and read on!
Today’s gonna be groovy
Fish lines? More like swagger lines to me 😉
The General Anatomy:
The Lateral Line starts at the pinky toe side of your foot, it then runs up the side of your torso, and up into your neck and head.
As you can see there are some very important muscles along this chain:
- Your IT Band (Or Ileotibial Band)
- Gluteus maximus, medius, & minimus
- QL (or Quadratus Lumborum)
- SCM (or Sternocleidomastoid)
The lateral lines are very interesting as they tend to be neglected and are often overlooked. A lot of biomechanical dysfunction can stem from this line and result in a lack of stability & movement for your body as a whole.
One of the reasons why this area is so problematic and often neglected is because a lot of the common movement we make on a daily basis is forward and back, very rarely do we move much side to side.
Exercise: Take a quick moment to reflect on your day so far, how often have you moved side to side?
Unless you did yoga or something before reading this, probably not much huh?
Before we continue you can get a quick refresher on Fascia here.
Got it? An understanding of fascial interconnectedness will be helpful in this section as I’ll be breaking down each segment and showing you how dysfunction can occur and influence the rest of the chain.
The Foot/Ankle/Lower Leg
The chain starts at your pinky toe and travels up along the leg via the Peroneal muscles and your IT Band.
Contracting the muscles (the Peroneals) along the lateral line of the leg and ankle results in lifting your pinky toe out to your side. (Eversion/Ankle Pronation)
That’s the anatomy, now for a little bit of how things can go awry. If you’ve ever sprained or rolled your ankle your lateral lines may have experienced some trauma.
The most common way to roll your ankle is to roll over your pinky toe (Inversion Sprain). This strain can result in scar tissue or locked down tightness in your ankle joint. This may cause dysfunction up the chain as this scar tissue and tightness will tension the chain and pull everything downwards towards the foot.
Pretty sure ankles don’t bend that way naturally
A lot of people have some really tender peroneals too. This is usually a result of improper walking and most shoes, especially those with a lift in the heel, stiffen the ankle joint and as a result reduce natural motion of the foot when you walk/run. You can brush up on your walking skills here.
Run your fingers across the outside of your leg and see if you can find some tenderness.
The lower leg can be pretty full of tightness and tenderness, scar tissue and tight muscles are very common in this area and will pull downward on the muscles/ligaments/tendons above it. A lot of IT Band pain/tension can be alleviated by releasing the Peroneal muscles and restoring motion to your ankle (more on this in Part III!).
Ankles tend to get pretty messed up and most of the time the hip, especially the glutes, are indicated with ankle pain. Let’s move up the chain and check out your hip, thigh, and especially your butt.
Yup I said butt.
The Thigh, Hip, & Glutes:
Everyone has had some IT Band pain at some point in their life, especially if you are a runner. If you have been lucky enough to have been spared this misfortune then I’m sure you know of someone who has been afflicted. I’ll give you a spoiler alert, it’s pretty much never your IT Band that’s the real cause of your pain.
As you can see from the image to the side, the IT Band is the fascial continuation of the Peroneal muscles along your thigh. It’s also a fibrous band (like a ligament/tendon), it’s not a muscle. It sole purpose is to transmit force from the outer leg to the pelvis and also works to stabilize the hip & thigh. Pain here is often due to too much tension and stress elsewhere, like from the lower leg, or above the chain in the neck.
For a more in depth look on the fascial connection of the Peroneals to the IT Band and some beautiful images check out this link.
***Fun Fact: DO NOT ROLL OUT YOUR IT BAND. It’s a band, not a muscle and doesn’t respond well to compression. As a matter of fact rolling out your IT Band can inflame and irritate it even more! (Check out these links for more info: Here & Here)
If your IT Band is in pain, your TFL, or Tensor Fasciae Latae, is likely indicated. Check out that anatomy image of the hip above, you’ll see that the IT Band splits, part goes to the top of your pelvis and the other part turns into a muscle, the TFL. If you find your Frontal Hip Point (ASIS) move below it and out to the side a little bit you’ll find this muscle. Press into it and see if it’s tender, more often than not it is.
Why is this guy so tender?
I’d wager to say it’s because your butt doesn’t work
Why is your butt so important and likely not moving, Dr. Adam Wolf says it best:
The gluteals are the “command central” of our center of gravity, balance, and power. They are utilized in all functional movement patterns, thus are the “hub” of tri-plane movement patterns.
The lateral line goes into the outside aspect of your Glute Max and contains the Glute Med, & Min. They should be active in just above every movement you make, and we lose this ability because we sit on our butts all day which makes them weak and inhibited. For more on butts check out my Get to Know Your Butt article.
Glutes are also indicated when it comes to Internal Rotation of the Hip. Internal Rotation is the first movement your hip loses when your brain starts to lock up it’s range of motion. Check out this article for more on that.
Pelvis & Lower Lateral Torso:
Before we continue up the chain I’d like to give special mention to Glute Med. In my opinion, Glute Med is the fulcrum of the whole Lateral Line. It’s the center-most muscle (in terms of your gravitational center) in the chain. It initiates Hip Abduction and controls Hip Adduction. It’s also a big stabilizer of your pelvis.
It’s often SUPER tender and dysfunctional as it works to stabilize your pelvis with the next muscle along the lateral line: the QL or Quadratus Lumborum. These behave opposite of each other. The Glute Med on the right works in tandem with the QL on the left.
The image above shows the muscles involved with Hip stabilization & balance: Hip Adductors, TFL, Glute Med, & QL. (Note how aside from your Adductors, everything else is in your Lateral Line!)
Interesting Fact: Your Lateral Line is also connected to your diaphragm. Your diaphragm connects fascially to your Psoas and is affiliated with the “Deep Core” Chain of fascia. Your Psoas goes down into your hip and is connected to your inner thigh (Hip Adductors). As you can see on this image some of the fibers & force transfer into the Lateral Line across your ASIS (frontal hip point) and into your TFL, ITB, and along your outer leg. (Here’s a study linking the diaphragm to chronic ankle instability)
If you have a breathing problem, you have Lateral Line Dysfunction.
Crazy right?! Your whole body is connected.
Let’s move our butts onto the wrap up!
More To Come:
So in truth I wrote out this whole article at once and when I started rereading it, it was waaaaaay too long. So I’ll stop this here because I’d like for this information to process in your brain before we continue up the chain.
I also believe that this is the perfect stopping point because a lot of Lateral Line Dysfunction manifests around your Hip. As I’m sure you saw above, this kinetic chain of muscles/ligaments/tendons play a substantial role in the stability of your hip and ankle. Remember that it’s also affiliated with breathing and balance. It’s soooo important for so many things!
Stay tuned, I’ll be posting in the very near future Part II on the Torso, Shoulders, Head & Neck. You also will not want to miss the final Part III where I’ll cover some amazing ways to clean up some of the dysfunction outlined in this part.
Until then, get your butt working!
- Interested in getting your butt to work? Check out my article: Get to Know Your Butt
- Restore your diaphragms and your breath: Your 4 Diaphragms
- Want more info about Hips & Stability or a deeper understanding of fascial connectedness? Check this out: Are Your Hamstrings Actually Tight?
Until Part II my friends!