BARE ALL BAREFOOT PART 4: PERFORM BETTER & BE “PARASYMPATHETIC” TO YOUR FEET
For the past week and a half I have been re-experiencing the same physical breakdowns that have plagued my ultra running for nearly 2 years. These include:
- Left hip hike (also known as lumbo-pelvic dysfunction)
- Left side – minor referral in the SI Joint and glutes
- Left side- dislocation of T2, T8 and T10
- Right side – Medial “Soreness” around the right knee
- Right minor “plantar fascitis”
Aka – a whole set of awesomeness. Now, reviewing many of my earlier posts, does this not sound a lot like breakdowns in the spiral line; which many runners and ultra linear athletes fall victim to. Most of us tend to go directly to the source of our pain, and for me this has always been the left side of my low back everything else is really just along for the ride. However, when we follow the line itself we can see that all of these “symptoms” are merely just that – referral and energy blocked area of the larger scope of the issue; which is instability of the pelvis due to improper foot placement when running.
FACT – I am a heel striker! There I have said it, my skeleton is out of the closet. Another confession, I pitch forward and forward head carrier. You now know all my secrets. This brings me to my next food for thought on the runners list of recovery and preparation – manual therapy. I am a big advocate of RMT and FST, as it allows us A-types to chill out, focus on proper parasympathetic integration and connective tissue work to passively (but actively) break up binding in the areas of blocked energy.
Be “Parasympathetic” to Promote Whole Body Recovery:
On Friday, I had the opportunity to hop on Gael Bishop’s massage table and within minutes was literally feeling those areas unbind and release. An integrated approach to health and wellness, as well as, performance enhancement is key to any persiodized program.
How can RMT and FST assist with recovery and prepare the tissue for your next phase in training? Moreover, What general effects does massage have on the parasympathetic and sympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system?
“The purpose of massage therapy is to prevent, develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment physical function or relieve pain (Massage Therapy Act, 1991). Massage Therapy is recognized as one of the oldest methods of healing, with references in medical texts nearly 4,000 years old. It is a widely accepted and effective treatment for reducing stress, decreasing muscle pain and stiffness, and for aiding in rehabilitation and postural realignment.” This little snippet of a excerpt was taken directly from Gael Bishop’s website.
Gael has been in the fitness industry for over 18 years and continues to inspire her clients to achieve their goals. Her experience as a Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Registered Massage Therapist places her clients in very good hands. Gael is committed to teaching her clients to “Trust Their Strength”, learn about their bodies and discover a new level of health and well being.
The human body is a finely tuned interaction of organs and systems. “the close inter-relationship between the somatic, autonomic and endocrine systems makes it impossible for pathologic changes to take place in any one structure without causing adaptive changes in other structures.” Edner, quoted in Chaitow (1983).
The Autonomic Nervous System is a system of nerves and ganglia that act as an interconnected web or “communication highway” with the distribution and reception of predominantly involuntary impulses to the heart (beat and contractile force) smooth muscle (vasoconstriction or dilation of arterioles) and glands (increasing or decreasing their secretion).
It can further explained by looking and the two sub-divisions – the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. While the sympathetic nervous system serves all parts of the body, the parasympathetic Nervous System is confined to the head and trunk.
Generally associated with the fight/flight response by its role in sedating the body and restoring it to the resting state it was in prior to sympathetic stimulation, where the ANS is a modifier of activity; either increasing or decreasing movement to respond to external and environmental stimuli.
Massage stimulates the sensory and proprioceptive nerve fibres of the skin and underlying tissues, and that these messages pass along the afferent fibres to the spinal chord, producing various effects in any zones supplied from the same segment of the spinal chord. … Such reactions are called reflex effects. When we take into account the make-up of the fascial system, an interconnected matrix which resemble, at the microscopic level, mini tubules that send nutrients and transmit nerve impulses to every aspect of the human body and every system; therefore, the benefits of massage are great. It can not only produce a local effect but may can establish a soothing effect on the body as a whole; as it can increase the sympathetic response.
Massage also may cause vasodilation in the skin and muscles by stimulating receptors of the sympathetic nervous system. Deep tissue massage often leads to a sense of relief and peace during or after the event – even if some of the deep tissue work is painful at the time of treatment. If we (as the client) also focus on linking this treatment with deep breathing – the brain can then be signaled to secrete the necessary hormones necessary to relax tissue even further, which aids in recovery and relaxation.
“Painful, stressful, and emotional experiences all cause changes in hypothalamic activity. In turn, the hypothalamus controls the autonomic nervous system and regulates body temperature, thirst, hunger, sexual behavior, and defensive reactions such as fear and rage.” (Tortora and Grabowski, 1996). Therefore; it is also safe to say that the parasympathetic system is integral to maintain “being chilled out,” as many athletes tend to be very “A-Type” keeping our muscles in tune with our response systems will aid in all aspects of our performance and phases in training.
“Back’ Tracking to the LPHC:
Taking a quick review of my own personal physical stress, the lumbo-pelvic complex. THE lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC) is a region of the body that has a massive influence on the structures above and below it. The LPHC has between 29 and 35 muscles that attach to the lumbar spine or pelvis (1,2). Above the LPHC are the thoracic and cervical spine, rib cage, scapula, humerus, and clavicle. These structures make up the thoracolumbar and cervicothoracic junctions of the spine, the scapulothoracic, glenohumeral, acromioclavicular (AC), and sternoclavicular (SC) joints. Remembering back to our 4 part series “Shouldering Responsibility,” we identified that the shoulder is not solely comprised of just the glenohumeral joint, but there are 4 joints to consider.
The LPHC is directly associated with both the lower extremities and upper extremities of the body; which is why promoting the relationship that exists between the hips and the shoulders is important to note. Because of this relationship and dysfunction of both the lower extremities and upper extremities can lead to dysfunction of the LPHC and vice versa. In the LPHC region specifically, the femur and the pelvis make up the iliofemoral joint and the pelvis and sacrum make up the sacroiliac joint. With runners, and improper gait cycles, the femoral head of the femur can literally jam the hip socket and compress the joint, shortening the leg and adding compression to all the lower limb joints (hip, ankle and knee).
Collectively, these structures anchor many of the major myofascial tissues that have a functional impact on the arthrokinematics of the structures above and below them. It is no wonder that there can be no isolation of one area to soothe the pain associated with biomechanical breakdown – it is a series or sequence of release and corrective control needed to effectively “treat” my “so-called” injury. RMT and FST sessions is an integral part of recovery days and during my peak training (especially gearing up for a 101km ultra run in late May).
Connecting the Nervous System to our Feet:
One branch of the nerves found in the feet stems from the largest nerve in our body, the sciatic nerve. Hence, the importance of your peids and the appreciation of the force and loud we apply on our feet per day. We know that the hands and feet house the majority of our bone structure. Our feet come with 26 tiny bones and last week we looked at the integration of the arch (plantar fascia) and the Achilles Tendon; which act as springs in our body to effectively distribute energy and loud through human locomotion.
The sciatic nerve consists of two nerves, the tibial and the common peroneal. These nerves are tied together by connective tissue and the wonderful adaptability of our fascial systems (primarily connected to the spiral line in the case of my LPHC). The sciatic nerve sends its two branches down the leg into the foot. In the foot these nerves branch out again, with many divisions nourishing the entire area. Thus the importance of regular manual therapy on the posterior and spiral lines are integral to optimal functioning and performance output for any athlete with similar symptoms of bio mechanical breakdowns. Add in a little traction – and as they say “Bob’s your Uncle” (Bob actually is my uncle so I can this without generalizing all the Bob’s out there.”
More than Just a Reflex: “Reflexology”
If you are an athlete, make sure to ask your RMT or FTS therapist to treat the feet, or even add in Reflexology; the trigger points in the feet can also aid in more than just “muscle and tissue” release, but in identifying the areas of pain that are usually associated with organs and areas of other discomfort in the body. Hence why all these manual therapies are important at one time or another, much like our bodies, there is no isolation of one being better than the other. A unifying theme is the idea that areas on the foot correspond to areas of the body, and that by manipulating these one can improve health through one’s qi.
Around the world and throughout history, reflexology has been rediscovered time and time again. Archeological evidence points to ancient reflexology medical practices in Egypt(2330 BCE), China(2704 BCE) and Japan (690 CE). Reflexology is an alternative medicine involving the physical act of applying pressure to the feet, hands, or ears with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on what reflexologists claim to be a system of zones and reflex areas that they say reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.
This concludes our 4 part series on “BARE ALL, BAREFOOT.” Next week we will have a 2 part series on Golf, Fascial Stretch and Stability. Get Ready to “Swing” into action!
- For more information on RMT you can check out Gael Bishop’s website at http://www.wix.com/gaelbishop/gaelsfitness
- www.nasm.org – Chapter 14 PDF of “Corrective Strategies for Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Impairments.
- Shouldering Responsibility Part 1: http://www.vancouveryogareview.com/yoga-props/a-guide-to-shouldering-responsibility-be-shoulder-savvy-week-one/