Joint pain·Supports

Getting active together

Medical supply retailers and recreational sport

From Bauerfeind Life Magazin on 02.03.2023

In short Michael Kriwat is an experienced movement analyst. In his company in Kiel, he has been discovering dysfunctional chains for more than 30 years, he provides individual treatment with compression supports and foot orthoses, and offers personalized training sessions as well as bike fittings.

Back in 1987, the treadmill in Michael Kriwat’s store was sure to make heads turn. Today, customers from all over Northern Germany visit the expert orthopedic shoe maker in Kiel for functional analyses and presentations. As a supplier of medical products, he sees himself as a port of call alongside physicians, therapists and coaches to promote the desire to get active. 

Exercise is challenging and contagious. In Michael Kriwat’s opinion, every person has an “idea” that will literally get him or her going. In order to prevent orthopedic problems from bringing this idea to a halt, health and exercise partners are needed that offer advice and support, for example at a medical supply retail store. His key advice to his amateur athlete customers? Don’t try too much too quickly. “Even if the mind is ready, that doesn’t mean the body is.” After any break from activity, whether short or long, he constantly warns against overestimating one’s abilities based on enthusiasm. This applies in particular to spring, when many unfit people want to get going with good resolutions. “Covid has caused significant changes as well. Suddenly, shin splints have returned. Casual runners started out six times a week,” reports the exercise expert, shaking his head. “Pain starts on the inside of the lower leg. If they continue to work out, they will feel pain also during rest.” He has noticed something similar with amateur football players who have been injured for a while: “They remember their previous fitness, then pull a muscle during the first lunge.”

Get fit first before hitting the trails 

Supported by his team of orthotists and sports scientists, the Managing Director of Kriwat, a foot and health specialist store with headquarters in Kiel, has passionately devoted himself to the idea of all aspects of exercise. Running, hiking and increasingly cycling are his customers’ passions. “At Kriwat Sport, we help those who want to improve their performance or those who are just starting out. And we look after the big group of those who want to get back into their sport after injury or who need to adapt it because of symptoms caused by excessive strain.” Prevention tends to be more of a topic for professional sports. Ninety per cent of amateur athletes visiting the expert already have an injury or symptoms. In addition to functional analyses, education is a large part of the company’s bread and butter business. “They used to say running makes you fit,” the expert says, “but today, you have to be fit to be able to go running.” And to check on that, you should touch each runner’s buttocks, he says and laughs. “In what is known as cross-over gait, untrained gluteus minimus, medius and maximus muscles play a central role. The feet touch the ground in front of each other, not hip-width apart. As with all dysfunctional chains, they produce compensatory movements. The ankle will be subjected to excessive strain, the knee shifts, and the hip makes a compensatory movement that radiates into the back. In addition to severe knee injuries, all the way to a torn cruciate ligament, collateral damage can occur in all areas.”

Functional analysis for the physician 

Dysfunctional chains – they are what Michael Kriwat keeps referring to. “There’s little point in just using foot orthoses in cases of skew foot, without looking at the other muscle groups that are also affected, all the way up to the hip.” He uses gait analytics, foot pressure measurements and a back scanner to detect non-physiological movement patterns. A bike-fitting station to adjust the seatpost and handlebars helps compensate or prevent hand, perineal or knee problems by precisely measuring the movement radii for the customer’s own bike. “Pain should not be the reason that stops you from being active. As a supplier of medical products, our expertise lies in the functional analysis. The physician appreciates it as an addition to the orthopedic diagnosis to detect and address causes of problems in the ankles, knees, hips and back.” If the data indicates any abnormalities, the patient can take the evaluation and recommendations to the physician and discuss what actions are warranted: training, physiotherapy and medical aids, such as a bracing foot orthosis, a knee support like the GenuTrain or something to stabilize the back and reduce pain. 

Kriwat’s services are well-known in the entire region, meaning physicians often advise their patients to visit for a functional analysis. The regular exchange with physicians, therapists and coaches is an integral part of Kriwat’s business philosophy “Getting active together”.

“They used to say running makes you fit. But today, you have to be fit to be able to go running.”

Michael Kriwat

Creating routines to solve problems

“Instead of individual measures, we need comprehensive, patient-adapted services to ensure we can solve problems,” Michael Kriwat is convinced of this. To him, this means offering more than “just” an analysis, a support or a foot orthosis. In addition to individualized care, custom training programs help develop routines that stabilize and strengthen. Many customers make use of the weekly training units in small groups, for which the company offers a 10-session pass. The sessions incorporate insights from the analysis and help address dysfunctional chains caused by ankle blockages following sprains. “The foundation is practically always the root cause for imbalances along the leg axis. You have to focus on these chains and work on the stability of the torso and knees as well as the range of motion of the hips and ankles.” Using compression products early on can also be beneficial to reduce swelling more quickly and improve proprioception. Kriwat relies on quality and provides premium products: Train supports, such as the MalleoTrain, GenuTrain and LumboTrain. He believes that high-quality products offer huge potential for the future to support patients in the long term and accompany them on a lifelong journey of activity. “Being active,” says Michael Kriwat, “is a person’s greatest luxury, as it enables us to participate in life.”

Images: Pat Scheidemann

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