I have heard that Jolly Jumpers interfere with normal infant development. In regards to movement patterns, is this true?
I have to say that this is a great question and proves that trainers these days are starting to think outside the box of traditional training. Please refer to my Q&A titled Infant Development and Adult Dysfunction (see "related articles" at right). Another great resource is Wisdom of the Body Moving by Linda Hartly.
First off, as human beings, we go through many stages of development. From the second we are in the womb (which is called naval radiation) to the second we come out, breast feed, roll, etc, we are beginning to develop neurological programs in the brain for rotation, pushing, pulling, bending, squatting, lunging and walking. These are what Paul Chek calls Primal Patterns, functional movements we have to do (with progressive and regressive variations) in order to survive in life. If you look at how the caveman survived, if he could not do one of the above patterns, death was around the corner.
There are many reasons why children are growing up these days and beginning to have dysfunctions at younger and younger ages. One main one is nutrition, but that is another subject for another time. Adults are working more and moving less (i.e., becoming lazy!). They are still having children, but there is one problem: they are still children themselves. Parents would rather put a child in a Jolly Jumper, in a crib, caged off area, in front of the TV or computer, rather than letting them roll, crawl or run around. Parents just don’t want to do the work of chasing after them. It is much easier to plop them in the Jolly Jumper and in front of the TV. This allows the parent to do work around the house or on the computer. So besides the Jolly Jumper, there are much bigger issues with this situation.
Now back to the Jolly Jumper. The problem with this piece of equipment is that you are taking a child who is developing in so many ways and you are cutting that through the middle. I find that most adults I assess (I perform an Infant Development assessment with all clients so see when they stop developing, at what age, in what pattern and how it might be contributing to their dysfunction and pain) are put into the Jolly Jumper between the ages of 7-14 months. This is when most, not all, start to develop contralateral movements such as brachiation, standing, squatting and walking. Within assessments with clients, to simplify it, you will see clients having great difficulty with contralateral movement exercises. As well, these are the people who complain of chronic pain, being uncoordinated, always having pain on one side of the body, etc. This is because they are unable to use the anterior and posterior slings of the body, have dysfunctional inner unit and outer unit synchronization, lack movement in the transverse plane of motion and lack contralateral movement patterns (which help to dissipate forces away from the spine, such as with gait).
This is important when working with clients. A simple test you can do is just have your client crawl on the ground and then on all fours. Look how they integrate or don’t integrate left with right. Look for any or excessive frontal, sagital or transverse plane movement. Most people will crawl with the right arm and right leg together and vice versa. To simplify it, they are the people you want to regress back to the homologous stage of development (0-5 months), which is integrating UE with LE. An example of this would be a seated bilateral row on a ball, a bilateral cable row to squat and a push up to jack knife. Then you can move to homolateral patterns (right side and left side) and contralateral patterns down the line. Be creative. Think movement patterns and how they correlate with exercise and, more importantly, with LIFE!