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Footloose and Fancy Free!

Rolfing 10-Series: Session 2….

Last month I kicked off a series of articles focusing on the elements making up the Rolfing 10-Series; a series of targeted sessions that have specific goals, each building on each other, with the overall goal to bring better integration, balance, alignment, and functionality to the body.  My hope is that this helps you as the reader better understand about the Rolfing 10-Series, help you see how you could benefit from Rolfing, and if you are already a believer in Rolfing, help you know how to better talk about Rolfing to your friends and family.

The first article, Take My Breath Away, focused on our breath, and if we can be getting fuller breath, how we receive overall benefit, inside and out. Breathing better sets the stage for improvement in all areas of our bodies and life.

The second session in the Rolfing 10-Series is focused on establishing better support in the lower legs and feet.  In August’s article Happy Feet, Happy Body! I talked about the importance of our feet, highlighted the impact heels and flip flops have on the body, and provided some stretches to help in keep your feet healthy and happy.  A good article to refer back to.  This month’s article is going to go beyond the feet into the lower leg.  Maybe it will give you new perspective and experience with the saying, “footloose and fancy free”!

Be prepared to laugh while you learn!

Did You Know….

To give a little framework, let’s discuss a little anatomy of the feet and lower legs.  Trivia is fun….

lowerlimb

Q: How many bones are in the foot?

A:  26 bones, making up one-quarter of the bones in the human body.

Q:  How many joints are in the foot?

A:  33 joints….wow.

Q:  How many muscles are in the foot?

A:  100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the foot.

As you can see just by the extensive anatomy of the foot, our feet are pretty integral providing support, balance, and mobility to the whole structure of the body.  No wonder when even a somewhat minor injury happens to the foot it is felt everywhere.  A few more trivia questions….

Q:  How many arches are there in the foot?

A:  3 arches.  The longitudinal arches run along the inside and outside of the foot (I often refer to these as the lateral and medial arches), and the tranverse arch which runs across the foot connecting the inside and outside of the foot.

foot-arches

Q:  How many bones are in the lower leg:

A:  2 bones–the tibia (aka your shin bone), and the fibula.  Why 2 bones, you may ask? Having 2 bones allows for better and more versatile movements, but also allows our lower legs to serve as shock absorbers with all the impact of walking, standing, jumping, and all other activities. The space between the two bones helps to evenly distribute the stress to the rest of the body.  If there was only one bone in the lower leg it would be like walking on stilts.

stilts

And while it may be fun to watch someone at the circus on stilts, it would not be the way we would want to live long-term in movement.  Sorry stilt-walking clowns.

How did you do with the trivia?  Did you learn something?  For me, when I see the number of bones and joints in the feet I am reminded of how important our feet are.  There are a lot of structures that if something is “off” in the foot, it most definitely is going to be felt throughout the whole body.  The same goes for the lower leg.

Importance Of Our Feet and Lower Legs

While our trivia talked about the muscles, tendons/ligaments and bones in the foot, it didn’t cover another structure in the feet–touch receptors. We have receptors all throughout our bodies, inside and out, that help to regulate, adjust, and protect our bodies.  In our feet alone, there are 100,000-200,000 receptors in the sole of each foot.  Wowsers.  These receptors communicate to the brain where adjustments need to be made in our gait, our posture, and our overall movement in our bodies in order to guard, protect and move most efficiently.  If you would like to experience how these thousands of receptors work first hand (or should I say, first foot?!), try walking on hot coals….just kidding.
hotcoals1

The more our feet can make good solid contact with the ground, the more information our brain has to make optimal decisions in how and where we move.  The more our feet are prevented from making contact with the ground, less information is transmitted from these receptors to the brain, limiting its ability to operate and navigate the body effectively and efficiently.  You might even play around with shoes on/shoes off so you can start to experience the difference in your stability, movement, and balance.

Check Out Those Calves!

calves

Okay, I just had to do that….I’m a dork, giggling as I type this (and still giggling as I proof-read this!)!  One more, because I can’t resist–when people say their dogs are barking because their feet are sore and tired…does that mean their calves are mooing when their calf muscles are tight and sore? Surely I am not the only person that has ever thought that! Or maybe I am.

Let’s move on.

When people think about their lower legs, I bet the main focal point is on having nicely defined calves (still laughing imagining well defined “buff” cows!).  Admit it, you did, too!

buffcow2

I mean, who doesn’t want to have nicely defined legs?!  In all seriousness, definition is all well and good, but ensuring the openness and flexibility of the lower leg muscles is more important.  From shin splints, ruptured Achilles tendons, gastroc strains or tears, these are all debilitating to our movement.  Not to mention that tightness in the lower leg alters gait, posture, and movement in the hips.  By now you all know that everything is connected, so this tension imbalance will influence the whole structure.

Chain Gang

As we move, movement transmits up through the body–a kinetic chain. When we have weak or tight feet, ankles that don’t glide, and compression in our lower legs, this chain gets disrupted from moving fluidly throughout the rest of the body.  The feet being the bottom of our structure, and our head and neck being the top, if things are getting hung up in the feet and lower legs, do you think you are getting good movement up at the top?  Or even all the in-between places? Most likely not. That chronic neck stiffness and back pain could be linked back to not being healthy down at the feet and lower legs.

As much as we are in movement day to day, if we are not getting good absorption of shock and transference of movement up through the feet and legs to rest of the body, it will manifest through pain, stiffness, achiness, and fatigue throughout the entire chain of the body.

Foot Note…

There are so many things we could be diving into around our feet and lower legs, but by now you are starting to understand that the health of our lower extremities really do play a critical role in the well-being of our whole body.  More than anything I just want to raise your awareness to how you are taking care of your feet and legs.  Time spent rolling your feet on a tennis ball, stretching your ankles/calves, varying your footwear and activities of movement, and yes, even pedicures and Reflexology, will not only keep your dogs and calves from barking and mooing, respectively, but will contribute to you feeling and moving better overall.

To leave you with something fun, the whole time I have been working on this article I haven’t been able to get the opening credits scene for the infamous Footloose movie out of my head.  You might laugh at some of the 80’s fashions, but check out the fun foot movement!  Enjoy!