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January 23, 2020

What About Our Feet

Sam came to see me complaining of stiffness and pain in his lower back. An MRI had revealed disc herniation, stenosis and degeneration of the lower spinal vertebrae.

More importantly he told me his right lower leg was atrophied, and upon examination I could see it was significantly smaller in diameter from his other leg. His doctor had told him that the reason for the shrunken leg was due to nerve entrapment of the lower spinal nerves in his back.

I suggested we work with his feet.

Most bodywork practitioners agree how important the feet are to good body organization:

  • Chiropractors use electronic devices to measure the proportional weight distribution on the sole of each foot.
  • Pedorthists examine the pattern of wear on the bottom of your shoes or bunions on your feet to see where you put weight on your foot and the difference between the two legs and modify your shoes accordingly.

The nervous system supplies the feet with as much sensory innervation as the hands. And people who have lost the use of their hands are able to paint, drive and function amazingly well with their feet alone – even play the piano with their toes.

Some of the most important movements of the feet are related to the act of maintaining balance. Think of the Sherpas who can scale the highest mountains with ease and agility. As our feet become more flexible and intelligent, become more accessible and part of our self image, our balance and posture improves.

The Feldenkrais Method, a method based on movement awareness, utilizes integrated action of the whole body – such as making the chest and spine more flexible – to bring added awareness to the feet and toes and improve the functioning of the feet.

Sam lay down on his back on my table supported by dense foam rollers under his knees and ankles. The difference between the bones and muscles of the two feet feet was remarkable. Whereas there was some stiffness in the left foot and lower leg, it was moveable. The right foot had almost no differentiation – the ability to move the toes individually or invert or evert the ankle.

By working assiduously to have Sam recognize new movement patterns, different from what had gone on previously, he began to move his right foot more like his left.

When Sam stood up at the end of the lesson he stood taller, his whole body more erect and integrated.
His previously stooped head and chest were now lifted up.

Tip: I often recommend to clients to walk barefoot on the beach or in their backyards. This gives them a chance to “feel” their feet and move them in a myriad of ways, unlike the constrained and habitual use of our feet in shoes and walking on unyielding concrete.

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