Meet today’s case study: ME
Firstly, apologies for the up close foot photo, but I’ve had foot pain for the past month and I've got something important to share. It’s only in the last week that I’ve been able to stand up and walk around more comfortably, and put on a shoe! As much as do love the hippy barefoot life, I would like my foot to eventually be 100% better and here’s how I’m going about it.
A fast and hilly hike with a big back pack (20kgs to be precise) caused repetitive strain in the muscles in my foot. My investigative mind couldn’t leave it there, as I thought – why the top of my right foot with the rest of my body completely fine?
Could it be from the previous sciatic nerve impingement I suffered 15-20 years ago, still affecting innervation of those muscles? I needed to know where the energy was blocked, or the movement restricted in my body, to find out why my poor foot was having to work so hard :(
Looking under my skin with an X Ray (ugh radiation) and an ultrasound revealed nothing “wrong”, but I had this very visible and painful haemetoma (bad bruise), with swelling preventing much movement. So, I’ve been exploring the biomechanical (bone movement) aspects of this issue, which my team and I suspect is likely poor breath and spine mechanics.
But how could it be? Teaching GOOD breath and spine mechanics is my life!
Well, it turns out the ol’ ‘plumber’s toilet is perpetually blocked’ scenario had to a degree been playing out for me and my craft, and it was time to give as much time, attention & enquiry to my own body as I do my clients. So, I figured, no time like the present while I’m stranded in my apartment in too much pain to get down the stairs!
Working with fellow Anatomy in Motion practitioner and root-cause detective Jonathon Bullen and heart-led Integrated Wellness Chiro Simon Martin, I started to understand why my right foot was being so insulted.
As suspected (because 'old movement compensation patterns die hard') and as revealed in a spine flexion assessment, my Thoraco Lumbar Fascia (lower back tissues) were still holding a protective pattern resulting in limited lumbar flexion (lower back forward bending).
What blew my mind is that my perception of how my spine was bending was not aligned with reality. Whilst there had certainly been some improvement since the 'sciatic days', I thought I could laterally flex my spine right, but turns out I had just found a way of cheating that movement by rotating my pelvis to the left.
Ideally, when we walk, our spine laterally flexes from right to left in the space of one footstep (in less than a second). If we can’t bend equally from right to left, we won’t move as efficiently, and will find alternative strategies to get from one foot to the other. Over time that compensatory strategy may result in things like, oh, I don’t know… Foot pain?
This insight as well as the understanding from my previous lower back injury, led me to study more deeply the nerves that travel from the lumbar spine and sacrum down into the feet. Yes, the nerves that keep our feet alive come out of the lumbar spine and sacrum, i.e. the lumbosacral plexus.
Divisions of the femoral nerve, emanating from L2-L4, branch off into the saphenous nerve and plantar nerves, give sensory and motor information to the sole and top of the foot.
Divisions of the sciatic nerve, emanating from L4-S3 branch off into the peroneal nerves, posterior tibial nerves, and calcaneal nerves, which give sensory and motor information to the heel and lateral aspect of the foot.
What if the nerves of my right lumbosacral plexus, that go all the way down my leg to innervate my right foot, are being compressed all the time, perpetually smooshed by my inability to open my spine into lumbar flexion and overdoing left pelvic rotation?
What was even more apparent, is the impact this then was having on EVERY BREATH I took – inhibiting postero-lateral expansion of my rib cage and hence my breathing mechanics. Overtime this can significantly impact ENERGY and VITALITY, slowly dimishing as low energy becomes your new normal. Scary!
For better or worse, I like to try to figure things out on my own if I can. I’m just thankful to my right foot for pushing me to ask for help instead of continuing to jam my spine into a compression …
This split between perception and reality is completely normal.
When we have pain, we typically experience a loss of proprioception (position sensing). This is why it is so valuable to have a (or a whole team of) support person(s) who can objectively tell you what your body is actually doing, so you don’t make a bigger mess of things, like me.
Getting clear on how my spine was actually moving helped me modify my movement strategies (i.e. stop hurting myself), and things have been steadily improving. It also sparked me to learn more about the lumbosacral plexus and better understand the anatomy involved in my problem.
If we don’t have an awareness of how we are organizing our bodies in movement, we don’t have a chance at understanding how to get ourselves out of the patterns that are keeping us stuck with pain and inefficiencies. Every injury and pain problem is such a wonderful opportunity to learn.
So my plan moving forward? Or should I say to move forward with a balanced alignment and stop hurting my poor foot!
- Mindful and targetted spine mobility exercises (see video below as an example)
- Directional breathwork and self-myofascial massage to open restricted areas of my breathing space
- Cold water immersion and beach break wave activation. I find this to really help with detensioning when there's been a protective pattern
- Whole body movement of the Ido Portal lineage with Perth local brother and adaptable mover & thinker Vinicius Fernandez-Martini
- Given the meta-physical nature of all things, I am curious as to how this physical manifestation may be related to the recent passing of my Dad and a corresponding sense of loss of masculine energy and support in my life. This enquiry has led me to the deeply intuitive Cha Higginson to help me delve into the what my soul truly needs and desires to feel supported, and I can't wait to add this vital piece to my healing journey.
Interested in learning more about the connections in your own body like this? Want help making sense of gait and movement assessments so you can help yourself or your clients/patience with more confidence?
A new Movement Discovery Journey is launching on 30 May 2022, with optional start dates when you’re ready to be get out of pain and find your centre.
To have me on your support team, please get in touch to learn more.
Annelise is a Holistic Lifestyle Coach specialised in helping her clients gain movement freedom in their bodies and vitality in their life.