Saturday, 31 August 2013

Are your foundations a little shaky?

I’m Victoria, a chiropractor based in Altrincham.  Chiropractors specialise in the diagnosis, manual treatment and management of conditions affecting the whole locomotive system from toes to the top!

We assess the body for alignment, imbalance, and any stresses and strains placed on your body, which may eventually lead to pain.

The most common problems I see stem from bad habits when it comes to our posture, the way we move and our techniques whilst performing our day to day activities and sports.  

Poor habits may mean that we are incorrectly overusing/underusing some of the body’s ‘mechanics’ i.e. muscles, joints, ligaments etc.  This can lead to the imbalance that a chiropractor will look for in joint loading and the surrounding soft tissues.  

The human body is designed like any other machine!

Now, imagine a car with skewed tracking and how that can dramatically alter the vehicle’s performance and wearing on other structures.

Similarly, an imbalance in our structural foundations (away from centre/neutral) can speed up wear and tear unevenly, often leading to changes in function and performance throughout our body as we alter the way we move to avoid discomfort.

One thing we can pay more attention to is our feet (our foundations)!  Neutral positioning of these from the ground up is a great start in preventing imbalance throughout the rest of the body.

We were designed to be able to walk, run, jump etc barefeet on many different types of terrain, but we weren’t quite ready for what was to come next - solid, stable concrete and paving! - Bad news for our now lazy feet!  

An unstable, softer terrain like sand, along with bare feet provides a constant challenge to our feet and ankles, as they try to remain upright. This challenge allows for strengthening, stretching, exercising and stimulation of structures; which tell our brain where our limbs are in space.  Without stimulation, these areas can become lazy, weak and prone to injury.  

The softer ground also allows us to weight bear and shock absorb correctly, for example - sand will depress for the outer part of your foot and come up to meet the arch on the middle of the foot, not allowing it to drop, collapse or ‘over-pronate’ (flat feet - see picture below). We tend to ‘over-pronate’ on harder ground in an attempt to seek shock absorption and make ground contact - we therefore let our bodies make compensations and not the ground.  

Pronated feet
Pronated feet

Asymmetries away from a comfortable centre/neutral can alter ground contact and shock absorption.  This can disturb proper sequencing of muscle and joint activity and the alignment of structures (knees, hips, back) - again sending incorrect signals from the feet upwards and predisposing us to injury.  The requirement for symmetry applies not only to the feet but anywhere throughout the chain of gears (our body).

Kinetic chain effects
Kinetic chain effects

Things that we can do in prevention of future injuries

* Shoes have a lot to do with the function and ultimate shape and posture of our feet.  Regularly wear a good supportive pair of shoes which aren’t too tight, short or solid and that allow your feet to move on a surface to bend, grip and roll as we walk

* Wear heels in moderation, sorry ladies, they throw off our pelvis (our centre of gravity) and alignment placing all of our weight onto the big toe - oooouch!!

* Go and play barefoot on the beach more!! Dr’s prescription! (Quite apart from helping with strength, it’s great for tackling and exfoliating that tough hard skin!)

* Practice exercises to help your balance and strengthen your foundations and core.


Can Chiropractic help?

Chiropractic treatment can help a great deal in terms of addressing alignment and asymmetries. Treatment involves spinal and limb adjustments along with soft tissue techniques and prescribed exercises to ensure correct form, functioning, balance, alignment, strength and flexibility of the body is maintained.

We often address lifestyle/activity issues and in some instances after a course of treatment we may discuss custom-made, heat moulded flexible orthotics to help improve your ground contact and for you to wear at home and about in support of the treatment.

So, just as you wouldn’t leave your car unassessed if you had a warning light/noise, it is advised to listen to your body’s warning signals (e.g. twinges/pain)!

We are not only a product of what we eat (which is a whole other article!), but also how we look after our feet and the rest of our bodies.  Many people choose chiropractic for many conditions.  It is a primary health care profession, which means you can come to us directly, and we will refer out if we need to! Do ask if we can help.