It’s that time of year again! The trees are blooming, the sun is starting to make an appearance, and so is our summer footwear. This means flip flops are about to make a comeback.
One of the things that I often see rearing its ugly head with the arrival of flip flops is headaches. People who have no trouble with headaches throughout the winter and early spring suddenly get terrible headaches as soon as they don their favorite bejeweled footwear.
But what do flip flops have to do with headache?
Our bodies are amazingly interwoven and connected. Our bones are connected by ligaments. Our muscles connect to our bones to move them. Nerves and arteries form a complex system that travels around our bodies. And all of it is tied together in fascia.
Fascia is a specialized system of the body that has an appearance similar to a spider’s web or a sweater. Fascia is very densely woven, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as, all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption. In this way you can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater. (https://www.myofascialrelease.com/about/fascia-definition.aspx)
Once we can understand that everything in our bodies is connected to everything else, it is possible to start seeing more patterns and relationships. The book, Anatomy Trains, has broken down this system of fascia into relationships or “trains/chains” that influence our body in a myriad of ways that can cause far-reaching results. Like headaches from flip flops!
The Posterior Chain of fascia connects the bottoms of our feet, up through the backs of our ankles and legs, along the spine, and over the top of the head. When we wear flip flops, we generally scrunch up our toes to keep our shoes on our feet. This causes shortening and tightening of the fascia on the bottoms of our feet. Combine that with the shortening that happens from sitting at a desk for long hours and all of a sudden that posterior chain has a dramatic increase in tension. This pulls at the base of the skull and can result in severe tension headaches.
What can we do about it?!
I, personally, try and avoid flip flops in favor of sandals that have more support or require less “toe scrunching” to walk- Birkenstocks are my favorite. However, on the occasions when I do wear flip flops, it is essential to address the posterior chain. Generally, going through a yoga routine like a sun salutation can help to regulate the tension running down the spine and into the feet.
What is most important, though, is to recognize that if a few hours in flip flops causes severe headaches, it is probably time to have a movement specialist like a Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, Personal Trainer, etc. evaluate your biomechanics. This can be a sign that you have underlying imbalances in your muscles and fascia that can lead to future issues if they are not addressed. Understanding the balance within your body (and its imbalances) allows you to make educated choices regarding your physical health and function.
So if your flip flops lead to headaches, please get your body checked and assessed for correction. Headaches are not a sign of ibuprofen deficiency, but of an underlying issue. This blog discusses only one of hundreds of possible causes- it is important to speak with a healthcare professional about your individual circumstances and seek appropriate care.