Dysfunctional Footprints in the Sand
I love to vacation in the Florida Gulf Coast, and my wife and I just returned from a family vacation there. The beaches and water are absolutely beautiful, and the panhandle area known simply by the highway name “30A” is one of our favorite places to visit.
One morning I got up early and took a walk on the beach. It wasn’t terribly busy, and the folks who were out were getting their beach chairs and umbrellas set up for a day in the sun. I was taking everything in. I was listening to the water, taking notice of how the sand felt under my feet, and chatted with some guys who were fishing off the shore.
As I was walking I looked down and noticed the footprints of someone who had been walking the beach previous to me. And, sadly, I wasn’t shocked by what I saw:
OBVIOUSLY, you don’t have to be an Egoscue therapist to recognize that those footprints don’t look right. They aren’t symmetrical, there are different pressure points, and the toes are doing very different things on each foot. When I saw them I noticed how much farther the left foot was pointing out than the right. I also noticed the heavy shadowing on the left heel, indicating that this person was putting more stress on their left side compared to their right. And, notice the difference in what the big toes are doing. Quite a set of prints!
Regarding pain, it’s logical to focus on where the body hurts; if your shoulder hurts, it makes sense to look at your shoulder to figure out why. But that is true only if you’ve just had an accident, that is, you just fell and landed on your shoulder. If we’re dealing with a chronic condition, such as a herniated disc or torn cartilage or rotator cuff, then the reason for that pain lies elsewhere. That’s why I often look first at the feet for clues. Repositioning the feet changes the position of the load-bearing joints which subsequently impacts the place of pain.
The feet give us a TON of clues as to what is happening with the rest of the body. They are the foundation of the body, after all, and a great place for our therapists to start when determining what is causing pain. Your foot position causes a domino-effect that, good or bad, will impact the entire body.
In the picture that I took on the beach, I can assume that that person’s left side is in pain. They way the left foot is everted, and the amount of weight being placed on that left heel are dead giveaways. His whole left side is splaying out in an attempt to gain stability. The base is widening–think Eiffel Tower vs. Washington Monument–because the load joints, and their accompanying muscles, aren’t functional enough to do the job of stabilizing the body with the load joints sitting directly on top of one another.
If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to read the rest of Pete’s article. You might just find that your feet are giving you clues that you didn’t know about!
QUESTION: When you stand up and look down, which direction are your feet pointing?