Why is Everything in 3D?
by Connor Hesselbirg, PT, DPT
As a clinic, Finish Line Physical Therapy wants to provide the best care possible to allow the patient to get back to the activities they love the most. Typically, that is running. But we also help get patients back to cycling, swimming, rock climbing, soccer, football, and other activities that require a lot of physical demand on the body. Having to create unique plans of care for each patient can be a challenge, but there are some important assessments and treatment tools we utilize to help make sure we get to the bottom of your injury and to prevent it from happening again. An important thing to remember is that our bodies are ALWAYS moving through all three planes of motion, and we must account for this in order for recovery to be the best it can possibly be.
The three planes of motion are as follows: Sagittal (going forward and backward), Frontal (going side to side), and Transverse (rotating in both directions). Typically when you run, you think about moving in the Sagittal plane more than any other, since the primary goal is moving forward. However, as you step and load your muscles and joints, you are experiencing forces throughout all three of those planes. We just don’t think about it that way since those forces are being controlled by your muscles to prevent any overuse in the other two planes. Thinking in 3D gives physical therapists a more accurate display of how your body is moving in a functional manner.
A good example of this can be seen looking at the knee. When we think about the knee, we think about it flexing and extending through the sagittal plane since that’s the primary plane it works in. However, when walking and running, the knee is also loaded in the frontal and transverse planes. It just doesn’t actively move in those planes because we have muscles and ligaments preventing that from happening. I bring this up because if there is too much frontal or transverse force on the knee, then the ligaments or muscles tear. As nice as it would be to prevent these forces from happening entirely and thereby prevent tears, that would be impossible if we want to continue walking and running properly (which I desperately hope you would want to do). So it is very important for us to think in 3D to help train and adapt to ALL the forces being placed on the knee to prevent injury.
Having our bodies work in 3D is also important to prevent overload in one direction, as described above with the knee. If there is too much work in one plane, it can lead to overcompensation in the other two planes of motion. This can cause overuse injuries since the joints and muscles cannot sustain that much workload in those respective planes of motion. As you can see, determining how pain and injuries can occur can get pretty confusing, but that is why we have trained physical therapists to think in such a way to make sure you recover in all three planes! Being able to work in all three planes keeps the body moving swiftly and smoothly, allowing your muscles and joints to work efficiently in completing the task at hand.
The idea of 3D was perfected by the Gray Institute, an organization that has revolutionized how health care professionals look at and treat patients that want to get back to an activity or sport. Their mantra is that you have to treat the individual, not just follow a protocol that is the same for every patient, because there are no two patients that are identical in terms of how they move and exercise. They also want to make assessing and treating as functional as possible, because this will translate better into getting you back to the high intensity activity and sport you love, and we couldn’t be more on board with this idea.