Your body: A reflection of how you use it

Your Body: A reflection of how you use it

Written by Teya Alden (@movelikeitmatters)

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Biomechanics is the study of physics (things like gravity, pressure, and friction) and my personal area of  study/ interest is the biomechanics of disease and injury. My passion and dedication is to teaching basic principles of physical science, the art of prevention and reversing damage to the human body.
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Starting with your feet. The foot is involved in every non-sitting activity we do. If we want to stay upright and active – and feel great at the same time we need to know more about our feet.
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You are never too old as long as the tissue is alive it has the ability to regenerate. The state of your feet right now is simply the reflection of everything you have done up until this moment. Human tissues are dynamic and adapt to the forces that are placed on them. When these forces change, the tissues change to reflect the different habit. This is true whether it’s a good habit or a bad one.
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Human body issues often seem complex and the “Healing is complex” attitude is frequently reenforced by the entire health care system. After all, the more advanced the treatment, the better it is, right?
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In actuality, most musculoskeletal issues – ailments of the bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles – are usually created by one simple, easily evaluated habit:  how you move.
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From the biomechanical field, research on changes in human geometry and body positioning and how they create loading damage on tissue is only just now emerging in the medical journals.
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While you have about 200 bones in the entire body, 25 percent of them reside from the ankles down.. the same goes for your muscles – a quarter of all the muscles and motor nerves in your body are dedicated to your feet. All these moveable parts, and yet I bet you don’t have the same ability to move your feet as you do your fingers, despite being born with that potential.
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Your gait pattern can be measured and quantified with a lot of expensive highly sophisticated biomechanical equipment. But here’s a secret: you can also just look down and see what your feet are doing. This is a low tech-evaluation for sure, but still a highly effective way to see how you are moving. An even easier way to evaluate what is happening in your gait, is to evaluate your stance.
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What should your foot be doing ?

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As your body moves through each stride, many things are happening at the same time. The foot, in particular, should have four distinct positions it passes through with each step. These positions are:
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  1. Heel strike – only the heel is planted on the floor.
  2. Foot flat – the front of the foot comes down to join the heel and now the entire foot is on the ground.
  3. Heel off – the heel leaves, but the front of the foot remains.
  4. Toe off – the straggling forefoot and toes finally leave the ground and move toward another step.
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In order for your foot to achieve each of these four specific points, the lower leg, foot and toes have to be mobile enough to allow it. Tight calves, stiff ankles, and inflexible foot joints  (caused by only walking on flat and level surfaces, while wearing fashionable shoes that squeeze and deform our feet) make this more difficult, and some of the points may be missing occasionally or left out entirely. The “senior shuffle” is a walking pattern that bypasses most of the points.
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Far from being neatly confined to your shoes, foot problems speak volumes about the future status of your knees, hips, ability to walk  for exercise and pleasure, and ultimately the ability to live your later years as a mobile and independent person.
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In general a foot ailment of any kind (bunions, hammer toes, plantar fasciitis etc.) interferes with the ability of the entire body to function. There is hardly a human movement that doesn’t involve the feet. No matter the current condition of your feet, you will find this information will improve how you move and in return how you feel.
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A consistent, mindful practice will safely and effectively support transitioning to natural footwear, reaping the benefits of freeing your feet without injuring yourself along the way.
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Evaluate the shoes you have been wearing. Is there an elevated heel? Even traditional athletic shoes have a heel. Is the sole thin enough and flexible enough for your foot to move like a foot was intended? Does the toe box have room to spread your toes? Does the shoe have the ability to stay on your foot without requiring you to grip it with your toes? …Yes! I am talking about transitioning away from our beloved high heels and flip flops.
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Listen to your body, do your practice, slowly consume more barefoot time and walk on variable terrain. That means dirt, roots, incline, decline, NATURE.
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Ultimately finding yourself transitioning into natural footwear. Walking 1 to 5 miles a day on variable terrain. More companies are offering minimal shoes now – Find what works for you for where you are in your transition.
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We tend to ask … How can I fix this? (Physical – Emotional – Spiritual pain) when the real question is: What am I doing to cause this?
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Three important guidelines to evaluate your stance.

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FEET FORWARD

– Align the outside edges of the feet with a straight edge, like a yoga block
– The first point is located by dropping an imaginary vertical line to the floor from the lateral edge of your ankle bone, the malleolus
– The second point is at the most lateral piece of foot bone before your pinky toe starts
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Why? When standing still this position optimizes leverage in the arch of the foot, making muscles in the feet and hips active.
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FEET PELVIS WIDTH

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– Find your (ASIS) Anterior superior iliac spine. Commonly referred to as hip bones
– Align ASIS over the center of the ankles
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Why? If your feet are closer together or farther apart then you are creating particular loads to the knees that are associated with knee degeneration. Keeping your ankles at correct width allows you to hold your self up with major muscle groups designed to do this job, rather than relying on passive structures like ligaments. Your feet need to be pelvis-width apart to engage lateral hip and glutes needed to walk with good posterior push-off.
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VERTICAL LEGS

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– Your pelvis is your center of mass and should be optimally aligned over your heels. When looking at yourself from the side, your hip joint, knee joint and ankle joint should all stack vertically.
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Why? Standing with your pelvis out in front of your feet puts unnecessary loads on the soft tissues in the middle of your feet (plantar facia), quadriceps and psoas. And as you might have guessed, can irritate the knees. Back up your hips and load the large heel bone, which will reactivate the muscles that were designed to carry your weight.
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A simple way to start mobilizing your feet daily:

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Save your sole by rolling it on a ball. Find one that allows your foot to be able to move vertically and laterally. Like a lacrosse ball or therapy ball.
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Place your foot on the ball and use a chair or the wall if needed for balance.
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Spend one minute moving your foot over the ball from side to side from the big toe to the pinky, then down an inch rolling the foot over the ball from one side of the arch to the other. Keep moving down rolling side to side until you’ve reached the heel.
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Spend one minute rolling the foot over the ball forward and back from the ball of the foot to the heel – this rolls over the entire plantar fascia.
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Complete the session by wrapping your toes around the ball and gently squeezing like you are trying to pick it up. Then press the ball of your foot into the ball, lifting and spreading all the toes pulling them towards your shin.
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Return to your stance compare each foot. Lift and spread your toes. Repeat on the other foot.
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 If you are only changing one thing – I have found this practice and transitioning to natural footwear to be very beneficial.
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The body continuously adapts to what ever you are doing now.
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Changing your habits will change your life. With the number of baby boomers on the rise, and the steadily declining state of health across the country, the time has come to take responsibility for our personal health and well-being.
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