Last time we talked about “The Cumulative Injury Cycle” as it relates to the feet. I discussed how the position of your feet can, and do, affect the rest of your body. We looked at the feet as we would look at the foundation of a house: Is it sinking, shifting, steady or strong? Let’s dig a little deeper and consider the situation from a couple alternative angles so you have the knowledge needed for assessing movement for optimal performance, whether it’s you or a client you’re training.
As discussed in the first article, “The Cumulative Injury Cycle” happens when an initial injury is left unaddressed and your body creates a less-than-optimal path of least resistance. It doesn’t always have to initiate with an injury though. A wrench can be thrown in the system any number of other ways:
-Your ankle not properly postured
-The way you sleep
For instance, if you lie on your back, the covers are pushing your toes down, tightening your calves all night/every night, leaving your body to figure out how to create a (less-than-optimal) path of least resistance when you step out of bed in the morning. Even when you were in the womb as an infant, you could have had a toe or foot joint jammed during the birthing process.
This information might make you feel like “I can’t win for losing”… but recognize this: if your system can be completely thrown off by (what may seem) a very simple issue, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that your entire system would benefit from bringing positive alignment to a specific body area. Why not start on the foundation?
Let’s take a little rabbit trail to some hands-on application. This is more of a teaser, if you will, but will be powerful if utilized right with clients. Let’s address fallen arches, when the mid foot is stuck pronating towards the ground. If this is you or someone you work with, consider giving the following a try during your next training session:
1: Stretch the calves (foam roll from top to bottom or runner’s calf stretch).
2: Stretch the Peroneus Longus (from knee to ankle).
3: Engage the Tibialis Anterior (from ankle to knee).
4: Do toe pulls for muscle engagement and you’ll be well on your way to establishing a proper arch and developing a beneficial cycle that will translate through the rest of your anatomy. Your clients will also find that they’re able to train without distraction if they’re without foot pain.
My general findings, in my own training and working with clients, have been that a fallen arch originates with tight calves. Tight calves essentially force the ankle into chronic plantar flexion, but since we spend much of our time walking and need our foot to appear neutral, abnormal patterns of altered reciprocal inhibition occur. Your brain determines if your Peroneus Longus or Tibialis Anterior should be disengaged (which together act as ankle dorsiflexors). In the case of a fallen arch, the brain has determined (for the most part) to shut off the Tibialis Anterior and hyper-engage the Peroneus Longus to create some level of compromised dorsiflexion, offsetting what the calves are dictating. This is a perfect example of the vicious cumulative injury cycle in action.
If I were to try and make this is simple as I could, I’d say it like this:
Structure determines Function, determines Structure, determines Function, determines Structure, determines Function, determines Structure, determines Function, and so on and so forth, for ever and ever…but this cycle is not always apparent to our clients, so our due diligence is to instruct with knowledge to prevent injuries and pain.
If you’re not sure what I mean by Structure and Function:
Structure = the arrangement of and relations between the parts and elements of the body = Posture
Function = an activity or purpose natural to, or intended for accomplishing the task at hand = Movement
It’s because of this constant exchange that vicious cycles form; but again, just as easily as there can be negative cycles, you can create positive ones.
Another cycle to consider is the “Neurological/Muscular/Structural Threat Cycle”, a name and concept I use to make understanding cycles even easier for those new to this information. It really is the same as the others we’ve discussed (“The Cumulative Injury Cycle” and “Structure determines Function determines Structure” loop). But I want to show you this concept from as many perspectives as possible because one might resonate stronger with you than another, and all create an excellent view to perceive and understand your body’s form.
Let’s break this one down:
Neurological: if your brain perceives Threat, it will respond accordingly. Most of the time that response is to move your body (in varying degrees) towards the fetal position. This leads us to…
Muscles: the action on the muscles is dictated and preceded by the Neurological system. It will command one muscle to contract and in doing so will also cause its opposing muscle to reciprocate by extending. Which gets us into the…
Structure: (or joint). The Neurological system puts a demand on the Muscular system, which in turn puts a demand on the joint Structure, all the while sending feedback to the Neurological system, which send signals to the Muscles, which move the joint Structure, which…. see where this is heading?
Your brain can hold on to perceived threats for much longer than you’re consciously aware of – days, months, years, a lifetime, even to the extreme of being passed down to your offspring through genetic memory (but that’s a different topic for a different time).
Based on this cycle, I thoroughly believe that if lasting alignment is to happen in the body, it first needs to happen emotionally (neurologically), then muscularly, then skeletally, which will propagate a cycle of healing.
To break this cycle, security needs to be introduced. Understanding that you’re safe, moving in safe ways, teaching your brain that it’s OK to let you out of the corner, that it’s OK to engage in life again is the first step to breaking the cycle. Safety is what you need to walk in freedom, and fully knowing the parameters of freedom will allow you to experience movement to the fullest. Knowing this, how many of your clients move in a safe manner?
And again: How much do you think your feet affect the rest of your body?
Considering everything we’ve gone over, wouldn’t it now make sense that if your foundation/feet are off, then the rest of your body would be negatively affected? And if your feet are aligned, the rest of you will be better for it?
These movement impairments, if left unaddressed, can severely alter function and structure. This can occur in a moment or over a lifetime. No matter what part of the Cycle someone finds himself or herself in, it’s worth addressing. And the sooner you know how to assess your own movement the better you are at helping clients find the same kind of relief through a positive cycle.
Stay tuned for the how-to articles coming next. We’ll discuss ways to assess and determine if and how your feet are being compromised by the muscular and neurological system. We’ll also go over how to differentiate between a positive and negative cycle and begin to discuss how to establish corrective strategies. We’ll work backwards through the “Neurological/Muscular/Structural Threat Cycle” to get to the root of the issue so that you’re no longer coping, but thriving. Get ready for some practical and applicable hands-on training. I look forward to seeing you in our next lesson!
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