It’s the worst when the arches in your feet start aching with each step you take.
You’ll probably blame your shoes, your fitness, or your weight.
Face it; walking is an awesome, and free, way to commute and to exercise.
Start putting some miles on those treads of yours!
But, man alive, is it a bad day when you’re far from where you started and your feet ache. All you’ve got is some grumbling and hobbling to wherever you’re headed to.
A Common Hitch in the Giddyup
I recently worked with a woman who was getting back to her walking routine after a hiatus. She desired to get “back in shape” and has some fitness goals she’d like to keep.
She informed me she has a history of plantar fasciitis and would really like to avoid a repeat of that if at all possible.
As she highlighted her story for me so I could better understand and figure out where to start, something she said piqued my interest.
She shared with me how her foot pain was worse while walking; her arches cramp up and she feels like she’s slow as a turtle in peanut butter.
Bingo! I found a place to start.
Keep Calm and Keep Walking
Walking is a whole-body activity. Or it should be and commonly isn’t.
With each step you take the muscles on the back of your body work in concert to strongly push off the ground to propel the leg forward. Many muscles are involved in the process, and for the most optimized efficiency, these muscles need to work in the proper sequence.
It all starts with the glutes, because the glutes are life.
I’ve wandered from the story a bit…
To review, she says she meanders slowly and her arches hurt.
A common compensation pattern at play here is the feet trying to do all the work for sleepy glutes.
Through a quick muscle function evaluation this is exactly what we found: her gluteus maximus, a powerful driver in walking, was sleeping at the wheel and the muscles in her feet were stepping up to take up the slack to propel her forward.
Those muscles, while a part of the process, aren’t designed to do the lion’s share of the work, so when they step up and step in for the lack of power in the glutes, they will fatigue and you will feel a deep ache with each step.
It’s like when you pick up the workload for a co-worker that’s a major slacker…you get tired and cranky too.
It’s not that you’re out of shape. Don’t blame your shoes. Or your weight.
What Do We Do?
A reasonable and effective massage therapy approach to this scenario is to massage the muscles in the foot, especially from the big toe to the arch, to “turn down the volume”.
Once the foot calms down, the Gmax usually wakes up and starts to do the job better, which is the most opportune time to build some movement memory in the brain.
These corrections are short-term, since the brain’s go-to is the dysfunctional pattern, so releasing and activating are a part of a daily homework routine, usually for a couple of weeks as your brain remembers what the most efficient way to walk is.
What you feel is less foot pain and more enjoyable walking so you can keep on moving!
Try this solution to your foot pain see if it helps. If it doesn’t, let’s make it a point to meet up to see if this compensation pattern is in effect in you. Foot pain is a symptom of many different dysfunctional movement patterns, so for the best success, we need to see exactly which ones are at play in your situation and customize the work 100% to you.
To schedule time to check, click here to make an appointment.
Healthy Foot Workshops are also available, and include everything you need to participate in an incredible movement-based class. Check the schedule for dates!
I found myself in a room full of highly achieved manual and movement therapists from a wide array of disciplines who needed to practice their manual muscle testing. I had some muscles in need of testing. Can’t do it myself, so, why not?
I took one for the team [wink].
I Had It All Wrong
The case of my Naughty Neck was not even close to what I expected it to be.
Most days in clinic, I find people have a lot of overwork happening in the muscles in the back of their neck.
These guys (neck extensors for the kinesiologically literate) like to work overtime, usually because of a history of car accidents/whiplash, and lots of hours logged sitting with slumpy posture over a computer keyboard, handheld device, or steering wheel.
How to get to some real solutions to eliminate tightness and discomfort versus chasing the pain with no long-lasting, permanent results. Yep, there is a better way.
It’s incredibly common to schedule yourself a massage when you are feeling sore, tired, and cranky.
That familiar burn behind your shoulder blades after a long day at the office. A crabby neck from falling asleep on the couch during the nightly Netflix numb-out. Maybe your knees and low back are shot after your lunchtime run.
If you have any experience receiving massage therapy, how often does the LMT zero in on your painful spot you point to, grounding, pounding, and chiseling away to only have the exact painful spot return?
If you’re lucky you get a small handful of relief for a few days. More often than not you only experience a few hours respite from the nagging discomfort you walked in with.
Are we doomed to wasting precious time and money on a therapy that, at best, is temporary, or at worst, does diddly-squat for those issues you feel in your tissues?
Here’s the Insider, Expert Level, Scoop:
Where you think it is…it ain’t
(Thanks, Ida Rolf, for the sound bite)
That sore/crabby/cranky/pissy/tight/pinchy thing you feel going on is merely a smoke signal; it’s informing you something is going on, but it doesn’t tell you exactly what it is.
Like a smoke signal, you need to be curious about it before it gives up the details.
From a manual therapy perspective, soft-tissues are often neurologically overworking or neurologically underperforming.
Ideally everything would be working effortlessly and seamlessly in concert together.
When you’re hurting, they likely aren’t.
Both the overwork/underperform states can leave you feeling sore, tight, and likely with some level of discomfort in various movements or activities that call on those muscle groups.
To simplify and restate:
An overworking muscle can feel tight and painful.
An underworking muscle can feel tight and painful.
Greeeeat! So which is it?
Million dollar question right here and one that will determine your success at feeling and moving better without a hitch in your giddyup.
In my massage therapy practice, I use an evaluation and muscle testing process that provides us with the information we need to determine what’s what.
If we find a muscle is neurologically amped up, then heck yeah (!), let’s release it. I will gladly press on it for you.
However, if a muscle isn’t properly utilized by your brain in a particular movement pattern, let’s call it “weak” for generalized simplicity’s sake, and not performing at it’s potential, all the deep tissue massage, stretching, cracking, and foam rolling isn’t going to do jack toward helping you recover and restore your ability to dynamically move without pain.
The process is quite simple:
Figure out what’s doing too much and too little (Buzzword: Compensation Pattern)
Turn down the volume on the overachiever
Get the slacker back in the game
What you experience is better, smoother, effortless movement with a happy and welcomed side effect of a less sore/crabby/cranky/pissy/tight/pinchy body.
Bonus side effect: you cut down on the potential for injury and tissue damage, as well as prevent possible wear and tear on the “hardware” of your body, ‘cause nobody got time for that.
Bonus bonus side effect: you have the ability and energy to show up in deeper, more profound, and effective ways for the people you love and the communities you serve.
A phrase typically thrown around during the middle-aged period of life where we feel like we are reaching the apex and it’s all downhill from there.
The rigors of chronology and physiology intersect as we mourn the passing of our youth, lament how this getting older thing sucks, and begin to see life as a cascade of downward spirals into the grave.
We may not be dead yet but we’re working on it, and we have the aches and pains to prove it.
I call BS on the whole thing.
The Smoky Mountains called. I answered.
This was my first trip in 6 years.
There’s something about spring in the mountains.
The weather is still cool, and the streams are strong after the snowmelt.
The birds are active, the bears are waking up, and the flowers explode all over the place.
The Hubs and I, along with good friends, rented a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN so we could be at the doorstep of the national park.
We aren’t interested in the touristy stuff that brings most people to the area, but 100% occupied with our big goals to hike.
Mountain trails are in a different league than the forest preserve trails at home.
The trails are uneven ground, full of rocks, roots, and mud.
There are log bridges over quickly running rivers, and sometimes you have to creek-hop your way across on rocks.
There are critters you may stumble upon that you need to know what to do about, because black bear are no joke.
You won’t likely see fitness enthusiasts with their step trackers and Couch-to-5k programs.
It can be life or death out there.
Take your time, take lots of water, and take some food for the trip. Learn how to pee in the woods, and check for snakes first.
You’ll take home with you a profound sense of accomplishment, likely some blisters, maybe some sore muscles, and definitely some new perspectives.
The mountains are great in humbling us and making us feel small.
When I hiked the Smokies 6 years ago I had a rough time with it.
The amount of soreness and fatigue I’d feel in my muscles and the stiffness I’d feel in my joints would lay me up for days.
This time was different.
I’ve been working on correcting my alignment, strengthening weak, overly mobile areas, and building more movement into my day as a categorical concept instead of just making sure I got my “workout” in.
I look at movement as something natural, healthy, and something we humans are designed to do more of.
Working on my Natural Movement made all the difference.
6 years older and 6 years wiser, I hiked more miles in consecutive days than I have ever in my entire life.
There were definitely moments where I had to dig deep.
There were times, when the fatigue would really set in, where my mind told me I wasn’t going to make it. My body, however, is way more capable than my mind gives credit. This isn’t a situation where I can just call it quits on the side of a mountain and call it a day.
You reach your limit, then learn that the actual limit is just beyond your perceived comfort zone.
I’d often feel an ache creep up somewhere, but the alignment and awareness work I’ve been working on for the past few years helped me key in on what was going on in my body.
Is something working too hard? Why? What is slacking? Adjust accordingly.
My new found whole-body awareness allows me to fire up my body in more effective and efficient ways and aches and pains would go away within seconds.
I moved in ways I wasn’t able to when I was younger and in, what I thought, better shape.
6 years older I move much better than I did when I was 6 years younger.
I experienced and enjoyed my body in a more positive way, which allowed me to experience and enjoy nature in a more positive way too.
Getting older chronologically doesn’t have to mean we suffer pathological aging.
Notice I say it doesn’t have to mean this.
For many it does. Why?
It’s not so much that you peaked too soon in your 20-somethings as you have now spent days-to-decades not moving like in your youthful days.
Think about it: You felt great “back in the day”; what were you doing? What physical activities were you participating in regularly? How many hours of sitting did you accomplish’’’’ in any given day? Was your ratio of being active versus sedentary different than it is now?
Blame that, not your age.
It’s not your age’s fault for the creaking, cracking, groaning, and grunting you experience in your body.
Your body is performing in a manner to the exact activities you are asking it to perform on a regular basis.
Stepping out of that regular routine, your body will tell you about it.
Not age. Adaptation. Often dysfunctional adaptation.
While we don’t have the power to “turn back the clock”, we are capable of changing up our routine and adapting to something different than whatever our “normal” is right now.
You can teach an old dog new tricks.
I’ve spent the last 2 ½ years working to adapt my body to something different because I was not enjoying how my body was feeling on it’s path to 40.
As my body nears the “Over the Hill” Birthday in a year, I choose to walk over actual hills and erase almost 4 decades of moving through life in less than ideal, often dysfunctional and compensatory, ways.
I’m covered a lot of ground and I still have quite a ways to go. The road to Mastery is steep, long, and well worth the effort for those curious enough to explore. Dust off your grit and get to steppin’.
Don’t buy the black birthday balloons for me quite yet.
You’ll never hear me blame my age for anything, and if I hear you try, be warned: I’ll probably call you out on it.
Bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders is an exhausting task, a task that wipes out and tears down even the strongest people with the greatest willpower and fiercest constitution.
We live in a culture that praises a schedule designed to overwhelm.
At work, home, and play we wipe ourselves out, drinking from empty cups, feeling stressed out, fatigued, cranky, and sad.
We know it’s killing us, yet why do we keep trying so hard to keep up with the very things we’re likely to complain about to our closest friends?
I recently had an amazingly valuable conversation with a new client in my massage therapy office about the very real physical tensions she is feeling arising from the equally real mental overwhelm and stress she is also experiencing.
She wondered if the two go hand-in-hand.
Her desire to take more robust care of herself was so strong she couldn’t ignore it, however, the status quo of doing everything and being everyone in all things is in direct competition with her inner guidance system.
What are we supposed to do in this situation?
The reality of the matter is we are a people who thrive in supportive, caring communities.
We need mercy.
Because of our tremendous need, we are also uniquely positioned to be supportive, caring people who recognize the same need in others and offer assistance to the people around us.
However, because our current cultural norms and standards praise busyness, overwhelm, and stress, most people lack the ability to even ask for help when in need due to the subconscious scripts informing us that “asking for help” is the ultimate sign of weakness.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We find ourselves in a Catch-22: we thrive in supportive communities and environments, yet we never enter into or participate with them because of the lie we are fed.
In our fear of vulnerability, we isolate ourselves.
Isolation further breeds more overwhelm and stress causing us to lose perspective, eroding our ability to problem solve, creating fatigue and more stress, with the final outcome of actually causing bodily breakdown.
Anyone who has ever survived through the very real experience of Burnout knows the truth in this “chase your tail” situation.
Radical Care Concept Challenge: Support
Everyone needs help from time to time.
This week’s challenge is about becoming aware of your need and the need of others.
Too often we are afraid to ask for help, or we are increasingly distracted by the noisiness around us, often on our screens a few inches from our faces.
Awareness is something that needs to be built into your daily schedule before it becomes a regular practice and a part of your character.
Please don’t get hard on yourself if you decide to participate in this R2C Challenge; opening your eyes and heart is not something that happens consistently overnight.
If You Need Help: Ask for it!
This is going to feel scary. Do it anyway.
What do you need help with that you legitimately have difficulty shouldering right now?
Caveat: Notice how the most “unhelpful” people are also the same people who are quick to judge? It might show up as gossiping or providing an opinion on a matter when no one asked for it. Being a nosey busybody is also a sign. Be cautious about asking that person for help.
Seek support from someone whose heart you can trust.
Asking a Sandpaper Person for their help is a surefire way to erode your confidence in your ability to ask for support.
Ask If You Can Offer Help:
If you don’t feel like you can ask for help, or if you genuinely don’t have anything you need help with, build awareness by opening your eyes to see the need for mercy around you.
Ask around and fill in the blanks with what you’re physically and emotionally capable of aiding.
PS: this might feel scary too. Do it anyway.
The more you are able to recognize and be aware of peoples’ needs, you’ll be better equipped to recognize it within yourself.
Caveat: Don’t be the Judgmental Helper.
You don’t get to decide the parameters or worthiness of a person’s need.
The Asker defines support. Barring any legal or physical dangers, being sure to actively maintain your own integrity and honoring your personal values, step in appropriately.
Don’t take away a person’s agency to help themself.
Be cautious about completely taking the responsibility on yourself. People in need are rarely 3 year olds with zero emotional problem-solving skills.
Sometimes, the best help you can give is sitting with this person, shoulder-to-shoulder, with your mouth shut.
Nothing is more empathetic then sitting with someone in need as they navigate life.
They are capable and they will thrive in supportive community, so be supportive community.
Well-intentioned, truthful advice incorrectly applied with insensitivity can destroy people.
If You’ve Been Asked for Help:
Do it. Do not pass go…do not collect $200.
Please-please-please don’t drop the ball.
When someone asks you for help, it takes tremendous courage for that person to bare their vulnerabilities to you.
If you give them the old, “yeah, I’ll do it later” brush off, or only half listen because you are distracted by your own perspectives and numbing techniques, you will effectively erode that person’s trust in you.
By not listening, nor following through, you are reinforcing the cultural context about how you shouldn’t really ask for help.
Bottom Line:You get to decide if you’re going to be the cure, or a part of the disease.
No person is an island. We can’t do it alone. Honor your need for help.
Help those in need with eyes, arms, and heart open wide.
We are not made to walk through life, struggling alone, in life’s hardships.
As the old saying goes, “Many hands make light work”; get creative and see where your hands, your good heart, and your words can speak life into someone else’s experience.
We are a people in need and we have incredible capacity to extend compassion in like measure.
That’s a lot of time sitting on your duff at your desk.
No wonder I hear a lot of complaints about sore necks, shoulders, and upper backs.
Inlast week’s blog post I laid the foundation for understanding and identifying Upper-crossed patterns (affectionately referred to as UCP moving forward) in the body.
To review, UCP is observed with a collapse through the chest and ribcage, an increased C-shaped curvature though the upper back and neck, with the upper arm bones rotated inward.
Discomfort is classically felt in the upper back, between the shoulder blades, the neck, and the shoulder joints.
It’s also not uncommon to feel pain and tingling down the arm, into the hands, as well as experience frequent headaches.
UCP is commonly seen in people who spend a lot of time sitting in front of the computer.
I also mentioned the one thing most people like to do.
When I chat with my clients about what they do with their upper back pain, most people show me they try to manage their discomfort by further rounding their upper back or stretching their arms across their body.
I won’t discount the fact that it feels good to do this.
Now, I’m not the Posture Police, but I am of the opinion that this is the go-to not because it’s therapeutically corrective, but because you just spent a few hours pretending to be a statue in your cubicle and a little movement through the spine feels extra nice.
It’s not the “right” stretch, but movement rules the road, so get it in however and whenever you can!
Without further ado, I’d like to launch into some workplace solutions for your upper back and neck pain.
The workplace ideas are different than the home solutions, seeing as crawling under your desk to stretch may be frowned upon in certain corporate environments.
Sit Less. Move More.
We are designed to move. Your body is home to 360 joints and 640 skeletal muscles.When it comes to your body, the old adage rings true, “use it or lose it”.
Think about it: you park you’re ass in your desk chair, and with the exception of lunch, a few pee breaks, and a trip or two to the copier, you’re pretty much stuck in a stagnant posture for the majority of your 9.4 hour workday.
It’s like when you were a kid and would make funny faces at other kids and grandma would threaten you that if you kept making lewd faces you would freeze like that.
Grandma was smart. When you park-and-hold your body, it actually adapts to what you ask it to do.
Solution: ask it to do something else!
Warning: doing something different will feel strange and maybe slightly uncomfortable at first. Your body is freaking out because it’s been out to lunch. It’s common. It passes. It gets bettah (said in your favorite Monty Python voice)
What does this look like in your workday?
Your smartphone is for more than checking Facebook. Use apps to help remind you to unlock your joints and get them juicy with movement.
It’s recommended that you get up for a few minutes of moving every half hour.
When you get rolling on your work, it’s easy to forget.
There are even ones to remind you to switch your focus farther away than your computer screen; yep, there are also muscles in your eye! Set that timer and get off your duff. Take a stair break and a stare break.
Adopt a Dynamic Workstation
It’s been said sitting is the new smoking and increases your risk for obesity, many diseases, and aches and pains.
I typically switch from sitting at my desk to standing at the kitchen counter, or even popping a squat on the floor to do some computer work.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of not moving. We can get our “stretch on” while at work, which also doesn’t mean you need to go to yoga class.
Remember our Movement Reframe; quality movement doesn’t require a change of clothing, nor does it take an hour out of your day.
Stretching/moving is merely a way to pay attention an move into your stuck spots.
When it comes to UCP, it’s really easy to move the area that is feisty and aching.
An area in need of attention is in the chest and abdomen.
Following are a few strategic movements you can easily perform while at your desk:
Reach for Heaven
You’ve been slumping it forward for hours; get your arms up in the air.
This helps open your chest and abdomen, loosens your shoulders, aides in circulation and fluid balance, and gently activates the muscles in your back. Don’t forget to take a deep breath here; fill your lungs all the way up!
Hands Behind Your Head + Look Up
Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down your back as you open your elbows to the side.
Don’t pull your head forward.
You may feel a stretch in your chest.
Next, bring your elbows back together and slowly extend through back through your spine so your elbows point to the ceiling. This stretches your front as well as brings some movement to the thoracic spine, which has been stuck in a C-shape for awhile.
There’s the Door
Use the doorframe of your office or your cubicle to help you move, release tension, and restore your posture.
Place your hands, shoulder height, on each side of the frame. Try to keep the tops of your arms parallel to the floor. (I didn’t to that; don’t be like me here. I’ll fix the photo someday)
Keeping your abs strong, gently move forward through the opening by squeezing your shoulder blades together and down your back.
You can also put your hand on the doorframe, shoulder height, and slowly rotate away from your hand.
Both movements stretch your front, and activate the muscles on the back of your body.
Do these movements throughout the day to loosen up, release tension, and play with your posture. Your body will thank you and movement helps your mind operate at its greatest potential.
Opening your chest and bringing strength back into your back muscles should help you sit up straighter, breathe a bit easier, and feel more relaxed all day long.
It’s incredibly easy to be strategic with your body while at work. Start today and be amazed at the improvement you feel in your body.
Stay tuned for next week’s third installment: What you can do at home or the gym when you have the ability to get on the floor, use some bands or weights, and have more time to dive deeper into your body to restore your posture and efficient function.
Need more help? Feel free to contact me with questions, or schedule an assessment for yourself to receive individualized instruction and care for your aching, stressed out body.