Over the past twenty-five years I have had many come to me that have problems in their knees, hips, low back, and yes, even the neck and shoulder region that has been traced back to improper walking patterns; that continually beat up their poor feet. People have tried all different forms of footwear and orthotics to make their feet and bodies comfortable. What most of these items do is create a form of compensation and become temporary relief aids, similar to ibuprofen or other forms of pain relief. When I explain the improprieties in their walking they often look at me and say nobody walks like that. My standard answer is babies and monkeys.
How am I supposed to walk? Great question with a simple answer! Mechanically one must remember that muscles pull and bones push. Movement begins with the perception of the environment we are in and is processed by the brain. In walking the brain must determine what surface we are on, what obstacles are in our path, what we have protecting our feet, the speed at which we are to move, and as it processes all of this information, develops the process so that it may happen.
The proper mechanics of walking have us extend one leg in front of the other as we move through space. On our forward foot we strike with our heel first and allow the 26 bones to articulate and experience what the brain is processing. As these 26 bones move they will roll up on to the fat pads behind the toes, it is at this point where many create the conundrum that changes our posture. They hike their hip and pull their trail leg through instead of allowing the back foot to roll up and create the pull necessary for the trail leg to push through. Most individuals never roll up on the front foot but keep their heel down and this aborts the process.
By allowing the foot to move correctly it will force the knees to bend properly therefore taking all pressure off of the hip joint. This is healthy for both the feet and knee joints and will reduce the compression on these joints. Results, less pain and discomfort!
Remember that there are multipliers used in determining the amount of force generated at the joints, but if we just perform the basics there is no need to concern ourselves with this. So when we walk we must consciously remember in the beginning to stride maybe a little bit shorter, let the body determine its speed, and allow the mechanical aspects to work. Stride forward and let the heel strike, roll through the front foot so the heel is elevated, as this happens the back foot will start to flex, allow the knee to bend and the thigh bone will fulfill the push forward of the trail leg. This is what creates the propulsion of walking and will help the individual prevent many discomforts.
What does the therapist need to look for here? Most therapists look at the gait and everything looks "normal". What we need to do is become more mechanical in our views and truly understand what is happening. Are the individuals pulling through their gait or are they allowing the proper Tensegrity to take place? The lower leg muscles receive their information from all of the ligaments of the ankle and foot. If there is not proper placement of the ligaments there is no conceivable way that the brain will be able to process the information. How is the foot striking, is there proper roll through so that all of the ligaments are actually performing their tasks?Is the ankle moving in the proper pattern? Are the lower leg muscles performing their tasks? Is the Psoas muscle or hip flexor working correctly? This muscle attaches to the first four lumbar vertebrae's and traverses through to the thigh bone (Femur). In leg extension the fibers that attach to the lumbar vertebrae need to fire in a sequential pattern from the first lumbar to the fourth. On flexion of the knee and plantar flexion of the foot the muscle must fire from the fourth lumbar to the first, if not there is not a proper mechanical action in the foot, knee, and hip. As you can see this is a very complex issue that needs to be neurologically reset.
I will continue to write about this in the next few blogs as it is an overwhelming subject. We will be doing a video on it and the Wellness Center will be holding "Walking" classes with a view point on movement, strengthening, and specific yoga exercises that will help.
So until next week - remember there is always a Reason to HOPE!