3. Can Your Body Handle the Load?

How do we stay upright?  In other words, how do you not fall flat on your butt?  We need to be able to sustain and hold up our body’s weight.

Our discovery is that without first looking at the Form and Function of the Foot were setting up ourselves and our clients up for failure, fatigue, and compensation.  Without getting to the root cause, the body adapts and creates coping strategies and mechanisms that create wear and tear over time not to mention inefficiencies, exhaustion, and loss of ability over time that we call laziness or aging. So then how do we prevent that from occurring?

It’s important to establish some ground rules – no pun intended.  We need to geek out for a moment.  Let’s break down Newton’s third law that every action causes an equal and opposite reaction.  This implies that forces come in pairs and that they act upon each other (aka action and reaction).  For example, consider a 200 lb. person who is standing still – their weight exerts 200 lb. downward into the floor and the floor exerts an equal 200 lb. force upward.  If the floor is flimsy and can’t support them, they fall through.  If the floor exerts more than 200 lbs. (which on planet earth is not likely), it will push them upward.  In other words, if the forces are not in balance, the structure will break down and collapse.

Furthermore, the physicist Hooke discovered that when any structure deflects under load, the substance it is made of must either contract or stretch to accommodate the load right down to its molecules.  When a pressure is applied by bending (compressing and stretching) the molecules must either move further apart (the tissues stretch/lengthen) or squish closer together (the tissues compress/shorten).  Chemical bonds will strongly resist these loads and typically requires a huge relative force and therefore lots of energy to create a reaction.  The more load applied, the further the tissues deflect.

In your practice, this means that a displaced bone requires a tremendous amount of force to shift, bend or break that can be a high force traumatic impact.  Elasticity is when a tissue can recover its original shape without deformity once the pressure or load is removed.  If it doesn’t recover, it’s called plastic, meaning it stays distorted when the pressure is removed.  A human example includes pitted edema. Different tissues vary in their intrinsic stiffness and rigidity.  Flesh requires less force than, for instance bone.  The pressure of fluid itself can be a force to reckon with as seen in the consequences of inflammation and high or low blood pressure.

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Understanding Stress vs Strain

Stress = the force or load that is acting in one direction on a specific point (e.g. psi – pounds per square inch).  It’s the measure of the strength of the force or how hard the molecules are being pushed together or pulled apart by the applied force.

Strain = the measure of distance of how far apart the molecules are being pulled apart or stretched.  The more elastic a tissue the more strain it can withstand.  This is exemplified in the saying “you are only as strong as you are flexible”.  Healthy tissues are intrinsically more hydrated, supple, and flexible.  Unhealthy tissues on the other hand are more prone to breaking down because they are more rigid and brittle.  Due to its architectural design and integrity, the foot is a powerhouse and is able to produce up 8 times our body weight in elastic forces.  Connective tissue contains proteins called collagen and elastin.  Collagen contributes tensile strength and elastin provides recoil and “bouncebackability” after being stretched.  In combination these proteins give tissue the characteristic of resisting repetitive loads and strains without suffering irreversible damage.  Poor lifestyle (smoking, sunlight, poor diet, pollution, AGEs from high sugar consumption etc.) changes the integrity of these fibers.

Fun Fact: Coffee inhibits the production of collagen.

Putting it Together: If a force is applied over a smaller area the strain increases.  An example is a 120lb person wearing a running shoe vs a stiletto.  The weight or force is the same but as you can see the result of a certain weight being distributed over a large area (the sneaker) vs one tiny point (the stiletto) the latter is more damaging to the flooring and can leave puncture holes.  Imagine the stress and strain on the ball of foot and toes in the stiletto!

 

Resources:  more on collagen and elastin

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24748954/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19588272/

https://www.histology.leeds.ac.uk/tissue_types/connective/connective_fibres.php

 

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The Burden of Being Out of Balance

Our body is constantly responding to the forces of gravity, stresses, and strains. An Align’d body can withstand those forces much better without being deformed by the weight of it. When our physical position relative to the gravitational force is off kilter, it creates unique deformations on a trillion tiny cells and the spaces within them and around them. This poor alignment will cause the appearance of “aged” posture, twisting, slouching, stiffening, and weakening of the body over time, creating a ton of poor health symptoms as an effect of compression which leads to inflammation over time. 

Every point in an entire structure must have balanced forces throughout.  In a closed system, like a human body, if there is too much pressure in one area, somewhere there must be a corresponding area of low pressure.  That is to say that imbalance is not random which means that we can discover where these high- and low-pressure areas are by assessing and measuring.  The purpose of Align’d Approach is to regulate these pressures to the best of our ability both the macro and the microscopic levels.  Therefore, changes in the tissues show changes in the posture.

If the load is supported in a healthy way, there is balance in the body and the tissues can resist all the pushes and pulls encountered in daily life – there is no wear and tear, and injuries are less likely.  We can accommodate these loads because we change shape.  We have the ability to stretch and contract when force is applied (Hooke’s Law).  With a certain amount of pressure or force, we can stretch, and the structures will spring back into their original shape.  At Align’d we call this your Bouncebackability. However too much will cause a deformity or breakage.  Consider a limb on a tree – it can bend to a point and then it breaks.

 

How Good is Your Bouncebackability – Your Springiness?

Having good elasticity or flexibility requires stability.  Without it, as stresses on the body increase, the tissue or body will not be able to withstand the force and damage occurs.  In an instant you can rip, tear, sprain, strain, fracture, or rupture.  Over time when the situation becomes chronic it leads to arthritis, bone spurs, knobby joints to a hunched spine).  Again, you are only as strong as you are flexible and stable.  The more flexible and stable you are the heavier is the load that you can lift.  Load cannot exceed the elasticity limit.

The Tap Test and both the mobility and the postural measurements you will learn with the Align’d Approach will give a good baseline for how well your body can or cannot accommodate loads as a whole or in specific areas and how it is improving or not.

The Tap Test

Tapping anywhere in the body is an excellent Indicator of how well a body or tissue absorb or resist shock or stress.  As you tap around an area you can witness whether the tissue can withstand the gentle force in which case it is solid or if there is bouncing or jiggling, evidence of instability.  The question then becomes What stabilizes it?

LAB: The Tap Test: Watch the video in Part B

 

How Footwear Affects Innervation

Innervation is how communication is carried out by our nervous system which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and a network of peripheral nerves that travel all over the body.   Nerves can be classified into large and small.  The small nerves in the foot are fast and when the stimulation (including vibration) is muted by shoes and even socks, we begin to depend on the slower large nerves in the legs and thighs.  The soles of the feet are rich with smaller nerves that anticipate any movement where the foot is fixed and in contact with the ground allow for a proper stance, stability and effective loading and unloading to absorb shock, stress and strain during gait. When we lose or block our proprioceptive input, it leads to slower movement and incoordination, then to weakness, instability and eventually to injury.

Barefoot is best because the highly innervated foot is our connection to the Earth and helps us to judge surfaces and navigate around in the world without stumbling and falling.  However, it’s impractical to go barefoot outside of your own backyard or a trip to the beach.  When choosing footwear, it’s best to wear neutral, minimalist shoes that have no stabilizing features and have a roomy toe box.  The foot can then function naturally, toes have space to wiggle independently, and the many joints can move freely through all range of motion.  At the same time, muscles maintain strength as they do not depend on a rigid shoe structure for support.

Avoid flip flops because they force you to contract your toes and cause a chain reaction of tightness up the back of your body.  Stability shoes limit motion because they are designed to help off-set excessive pronation or supination.  The problem is that they prevent feet from being challenged or pressure tested.  Feet become rigid and or weak.  Some people also add a cane or crutch.  These devices can be very useful under conditions of injury or post surgery, but we mustn’t depend on them for long periods of time if we want optimal performance.  The issue is that their point of reference has become narrowed and skewed causing their comfort zone to become smaller and smaller.  It creates limitations and barriers, and this is Sheryl’s definition of getting old.  Use it or Lose it.  This is why pressure testing is MEGA IMPORTANT!  We’re not saying to put yourself in danger but to increase the difficulty quotient progressively with the Kaizen principles to improve ability over time.

Resource:  This website is a great source of information about anatomy.  Look at the images of the nervous system in the foot for more insight.

https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/lower-extremities-arteries-and-nerves

 

Neuropathy

This condition is a problem or “pathology of the nerves”.  When the small fibers of the peripheral nerve system are damaged it leads to weakness and altered sensation such as itchiness, pain, tingling, numbness, burning and cold as well as decreased sensations of vibration, touch, pain and temperature changes.  This leads to problems with circulation, coordination and balance as well as an increased risk of developing ulcers.

These small fibers are also in the GI tract and the cardiovascular and cause far reaching symptoms because the nerves send messages between the CNS – brain and spinal cord – and the rest of the body.  Because of the damage the signals are too much not enough or just plain wrong.  Incontinence, constipation, sexual dysfunction, problems sweating, heart rate and blood pressure problems, skin discoloration, dry eyes and mouth.  As a result, perception is limited and therefore distorted.   Diabetes is the leading cause of neuropathy, and we believe that it’s the most debilitating lifestyle consequence and condition on the planet.  If you’re not a health care practitioner make sure that the cause is explored by their doctor because there are other reasons for neuropathy such as kidney or liver disease, injury, infections, autoimmune conditions, cancer, alcoholism, drugs, vitamin b12 deficiency and toxic chemical exposure.

Resource:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/small-fiber-neuropathy

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Engaging Core 

The anatomical center of the body is the umbilicus (belly button), as seen by DaVinci’s Vitruvian man. When measuring the length of the human body from head to foot, the Golden Cut falls exactly at the navel, calling it the center of magnitude or geometrical center of the body. In ALIGN we use this center to represent the body’s core.

Its purpose is to provide balance and support for the body and to hold the body upright.  The core is the main stabilizer of all movement.  All movements and posturing should ideally be centered on its “core” to maximize control and transfer of forces effectively.  When this occurs, energy efficiency is optimized because any compensatory and inefficient energy expenditures are minimized. Having the ability to engage your core effectively will reduce the overall effects of wear and tear on the body by best helping to control and transfer forces properly.

The weaker the core, the more energy is lost by rotation of the trunk in the transfer from lower body to upper body. This requires other joints and areas of the body to pick up the slack and maintain stability – areas not designed to support and balance the body.

An engaged core allows for efficient distribution of forces during standing, sitting & movement and maximize energy efficiency & utilization.  Engaging the core is the foundation for functional alignment, optimal positioning and posture & movement correction in the body.  This is necessary to prevent further injury and to normalize excessive or deficient areas of pressure and tension. This will help achieve structural homeostasis and correct habitual areas of discomfort and stress.

When a person wishes to make changes, it is our responsibility as practitioners to educate and ensure that they are engaging and using their core and understand the full benefits. If they are not, then the changes that are made cannot be effectively supported once they resume their daily life activities, and the changes will not hold. By engaging the core, the body CAN hold and SUPPORT positive change and thus eliminate the yo-yo effect. It is our desire to create a shift that will allow for continuous progressive transformation and improvement in the body.

 

LAB: Engaging core: see page 66 in the Workbook