Benefits of Being Barefoot!

As the gray days of winter start to pass and the temperatures warm, I find myself itching to ditch my shoes and head outdoors. I love being barefoot and how my feet (and my legs) feel when I get to spend more time sans-shoes.Dr. Sharonrose Samelak is your source for wellness information! (1).jpg

Walking barefoot is great for adults, but utterly essential for our little ones.

The human foot has 33 joints as well as tons of tiny muscles and nerves that provide information to the brain about where your body is in space- proprioception- and balance- dictated by the vestibular system. When we walk barefoot, our feet are alive with information. Think of walking on a pebbly beach. Our feet interact with the ground and there is a massive amount of data sent to the brain.

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When barefoot we are truly interfacing with our environment.

Let’s take a moment and think about what happens when we place our feet in shoes- particularly stiff and restrictive ones. You are basically placing a blindfold on your feet!

  • Your nervous system is not getting as much information from the ground.
  • The joints in your feet don’t get stimulated. (Joints get nutrition through motion, so they starve when they are restricted)
  • The muscles of the foot don’t get exercised.
  • Your balance and your proprioception suffer.

These same principles apply to the feet of our children. When they learn to walk, stand, and even when they play with their toes, children are building and programming their nervous system. They are patterning the way their muscles will fire for proper gait and spinal stabilization. Kids earn every milestone that they make. All of this happens from the ground up. Some neurologists even prescribe thinly soled shoes or barefoot time for children with developmental delays.

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According to an article in the Washington Post, “Going barefoot helps a child develop body awareness.” I love how succinctly they boil this all down.

Have you taken your shoes off yet?

Do you feel like your feet have been blindfolded your whole life?

Do your feet need to wake up?

Dr. Samelak is passionate about helping people wake up their feet and improve the way that they interact with the ground- improving balance, preventing injury, and starting to correct long standing structural imbalances.

Check out our Events Page to learn about when Dr. Samelak will be teaching her next Love Your Feet workshop with Jodi Boone!

 

Travel Smart- Chiropractic Travel Tips for Flying

Flying can be a pain. Literally. You haul yourself through lines at security, toting your carry on luggage. You wait for your flight in uncomfortable seating or on the floor. The planes are cramped with uncomfortable seats and not enough leg room. The air is dry and blows into your face. You finally reach your destination and are so thankful to be done flying that you haul your carry on luggage down the aisle of the plane and breathe a sigh of relief.

It can be better with some planning.

  1. Carry On Luggage
    • Your carry on suitcase is a strategic decision.
      • It is important to choose a lightweight suitcase, preferably with multi-directional wheels. This allows you to push it down the narrow aisle of the airplane and more easily lift it into the overhead bin.
      • Lifting your case into the overhead compartments can be a challenge. By keeping the case light, and talking with your chiropractor about proper lifting technique, you can spare yourself some discomfort in maneuvering your luggage.
    • Your personal item can make or break your trip.
      • A tote bag or large purse seems like a good idea for a personal item. They hold a lot and can be quite fashionable.
      • I prefer and recommend a backpack for your personal item. You can pack your empty purse inside or in your main luggage. Remember to place your belongings in the backpack with the heaviest closest to your body (ie: laptop). Lighter items can be placed farther from the body.
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        A backpack is an excellent choice for a personal item when flying.

        Most backpacks have many compartments which allow you to stay organized and evenly distribute weight. I prefer packs made by backpacking companies like Osprey or Deuter because they are lightweight with many compartments.

  2. Dress the Part
    • Between security checkpoints and the prolonged sitting involved in plane travel, clothing can be an important part of trip planning.
    • Ladies, your hairstyle matters!
      • I have longer hair and have to be sure that my hair is either down or in a top knot. If my hair is in a ponytail or on the back of my head, it forces anterior head positioning.
      • Anterior head positioning causes increased tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders as well as promoting further poor posture
    • Wear comfortable shoes
      • Shoes should be easily removable for security, but should also be comfortable and practical.
      • High Heel ShoesHeels should be avoided because of the extreme angulation that they place the ankles in- not to mention the positioning of the pelvis while walking.  ***Stay tuned for a future blog that discusses the problems with high heels and their health impact***
    • Choose pants that allow for full hip range of motion. Tight pants, especially jeans can cause nerve and blood vessel impingement with prolonged sitting.
    • Consider compression socks for longer flights. These socks help improve circulation and can help with leg aching with prolonged inactivity.
  3. Remember Posture
    • We mentioned posture when choosing your hairstyle on a travel day… But it goes so much further. Good posture will help prevent low back pain and upper back pain from traveling.
    • Sit fully back in your seat and make sure that you are sitting on your “sit bones” not your tailbone.
    • Place both feet flat on the floor.
    • Adjust your headrest for optimum support.
    • Focus on alignment.
      • Think of your rib cage and your pelvis like 2 bowls.
      • Start by making sure that the bowl of  your pelvis is balanced and upright.
      • Now, line up your rib cage over it.
      • Make sure that your low back is not rounded or crunched forward.
  4. Hydrate
    • The dry environment in an airplane can dry out your mucous membranes- hydrating can keep them healthy and protect you from getting a cold while on an airplane.
      • When your nose dries out, it doesn’t protect you as well from viruses and bacteria.
  5. Sun Salutations!Forward Fold
    • Following your flight, it is time to move. I love how gentle yoga is to help me work the kinks out of my body after a day of travel. Sun salutations will help you to lengthen your spine and loosen tight muscles.

I hope that some of these tools will help you to feel better and be better prepared when you next travel. Please remember that this blog is intended for educational purposes. It is good to speak to your Chiropractor or Primary Care Physician to ensure that these tips are right for you.

No Pain, No Gain- An Outdated Fitness Concept

No Pain, No Gain

I remember being in high school sports and repeatedly hearing people laugh and say, “No pain, no gain” as we pushed ourselves to make gains in the weight room or in the pool. We worked out to exhaustion, more focused on completing the workout or the set in the weight room than on form or perfection. Coaches said things like, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” We got strong, sure. We gained speed. We thought we were so cool as we showed off our bruises and iced down our shoulders.

The reality, though, is that we were injuring ourselves. We were building poorly coordinated neural pathways. We were altering our biomechanics and causing overuse injuries.

 

Now that I am years out of that scenario, I often work with athletes, like myself, who are driven to excel and want to improve in their sport. One of the biggest discussions we have is surrounding this concept of “No pain. No gain.”

A workout should build you up, not break you down.

It is important to work out in a way that pushes your capacity, but does not allow for the break down of your mechanics. For example, when I assign rehab exercises in my practice, we always discuss:

  • The goals of the exercise
  • What you should feel when you perform the exercise
  • What are the “fails” of the exercise (ie: what things let you know that you have completed as many exercises as your body can handle)

It all comes down to the neural edge. This is the limit to which the brain can control the exercise and where we can actively create new pathways. Here is where we can safely make gains in our training.

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Beyond rehab, think of it like this… If you are on a run and you have decided that you will run 6 miles today. However, at 4 miles you notice that your left foot is hurting in the arch with some knee pain as well. Do you decide to continue running? -OR-  Do you listen to your body and stop your run at 4 miles? Should you continue to run, you are risking causing damage in your body that may keep you from running later in the week or season. It is important to evaluate (or to be evaluated by a professional) why the pain is present? Are your supporting or stabilizing muscles doing their jobs? Are you wearing appropriate shoes for your feet and the surface you are running on? Do you have proper nutrition?

Running through pain or working out through pain can be extremely detrimental to training, overall. It can result in overuse injuries and in neural patterning that lends itself to future injuries. Instead, it is imperative to train intelligently. Work smart. Get evaluated to be sure that you are making safe gains and discuss your training with a coach and functional movement specialist.

Let’s forget No Pain, No Gain

Let’s shift our focus in training. Let’s teach our athletes, young and old, to listen to their bodies and find their edge.  Let’s lead by example and learn to work out smart- and hard.

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***This blog is intended to provide educational content and is not for diagnostic purposes nor to provide health care advice. Please speak with your health care professional prior to changing your workout routine.***

What in the heck is Pandiculation?

This weekend, while cruising Facebook, I stumbled across a blog discussing pandiculation versus stretching. They posit that pandiculation is more effective than stretching at changing muscle length and improving flexibility. Completely fascinated, I have started learning more…

Pandiculation Defined:

Dictionary.com defines Pandiculation as a noun. “The act of stretching oneself.” It then goes on to explain that it is most commonly associated with yawning.

Interesting, but I am pretty sure that we all recognize that a yawn is a much different kind of stretch than we achieve from a toe-touch. (Are you yawning yet? Because I am.) The real question is: Why do we feel looser in our jaw, neck, and even shoulders from a yawn, when a voluntary stretch is not as effective?

Perhaps Dictionary.com’s definition is a little incomplete.

EssentialSomatics.com defines Pandiculation as:

A conscious, voluntary contraction of a muscle, followed by a slow, deliberate lengthening of that muscle and a complete relaxation

They further explain that the conscious, voluntary component of pandiculation helps to reset the way our brain perceives the length of our muscles. For the neurology, read this.

Pandiculation versus Stretch

Essentially, pandiculation changes our brain’s understanding of muscle length, acting as a sort of soft reset.

It is important to contrast this with an understanding of our basic stretch. When we stretch a muscle, as in our hamstrings with a toe touch, a reflex tells the spinal cord that is happening in the muscle. This triggers a return signal to the muscle to contract or shorten. This defeats the intention of the toe touch and can actually reduce muscle power afterward. (See the first link in this post for more details)

This seems to indicate that if we truly want to lengthen a muscle, we must control that movement and engage the brain.

Why does it matter/How to apply this

I started reading about this during my down-time at a trail marathon and 50K where I was providing post race soft tissue work for athletes. While assessing the runners, I began to notice trends in their imbalances as well as how hamstrings and glute muscles responded to even a gentle evaluation of length/tension. They tend to cramp or contract in protest! This is a perfect setting to understand that basic stretch reflex. Many of these runners would benefit from an understanding of applied Pandiculation. (Which may be my new favorite word)

One of the best human examples of pandiculation mentioned earlier was yawning. Yawning is a controlled contraction of the muscles in the lower jaw and neck followed by a gradual release.

Now, think about your cat or dog at home. Have you ever seen your feline friend get up from sleeping without that luxurious stretch that they hold and then gently release? I am pretty sure that my cats are expert pandiculaters.

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As humans, most of this is not instinctual for us as it is with our pets. However, yoga is one form of exercise that applies pandiculation to its movements. I know that I sometimes walk into a yoga class unable to touch my toes in forward bend, but after a few flows, I am so much looser and stay that way for days. A great yoga practice literally resets your brain’s perception of muscle length.

Take Home

It is hugely important to make sure that you are training your body with intention and the help of professionals! It is possible to avoid injury, increase power and endurance, and improve overall performance by learning more about your own body’s balance and imbalances. Please work with your health care provider to ensure that your workouts and your body are balanced and appropriate for you. If you are in the greater Seattle area and would like a consultation regarding your fitness, please feel free to contact us at (206)565-9691 to schedule your appointment with Dr. Samelak.

And just for fun… try saying Pandiculation three times, quickly!

 

Are Flip Flops Causing Your Headaches?

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.

flip-flops-1479699_1920One 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!

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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.

Why you should STOP ignoring your feet!

wanna-see-my-footFeet are important.

They are the foundation that we stand upon.

Your feet contain 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Not to mention nerves and blood vessels!

And yet we abuse them by wearing impractical shoes, restraining them, sitting too much, etc.

Problems with our feet involve more than just foot pain, they can impact the low back and even headaches.

Gait patterns (how we walk) are driven by the foot.

The gait cycle is broken down below, but, in essence the way that we walk is influenced by how we transfer weight from one foot to the other. It is important for us to see that the heel hits the ground first and then the bones of the foot lock together, rolling the toes down and bearing weight.

  • The gait cycle starts with a Heel Strike. The heel of the reference foot is the first place to touch the ground.
  • When the foot is flat, weight can be transferred to the referenced leg. In this part of the gait cycle, think about weight bearing, shock absorption, and moving forward.
  • Mid Stance occurs when the body is balanced and in alignment on the reference foot.
  • Just as the heel of the reference foot leaves the ground, the body is in terminal stance.
  • Toe off occurs when the great toe of the reference foot leaves the ground and begins to swing. This is the beginning of the swing phase of the gait cycle.
  • The swing phase is that part of the gait cycle during which the reference foot is not in contact with the ground and swings in the air. It constitutes about 40% of gait cycle. (wikipedia)

Feet have arches that act as springs to support our movement.

It is important to have your arches analyzed and evaluated- no matter their shape to ensure that your feet support your body. Think about it, have you ever been told you had flat feet or high arches? Take at look at the photos below and compare to your footprints in sand.

arches

Often, high arch feet are very rigid and benefit from self-mobilization. Follow the steps below to mobilize your feet. By stimulating motion in a rigid foot, you can reduce foot pain and improve your biomechanics.

  • Grasp your forefoot in both hands and perform a shearing motion between each of the toes
  • Gently tug on each of your toes
  • Using your whole palm, grasp the heel of your foot and firmly move it back and forth

Flat feet, on the other hand, generally need to be retrained to have more muscular coordination. For this, the “Short Foot” exercises tend to be very helpful.

  • Try placing a kitchen towel on the floor and using your toes to pull it toward you

OR

  • Use your toes to pick up marbles off the floor

feet-619399_1920Either way your feet should be moveable and strong. Think of watching a toddler walk barefoot. You can see their toes grasp the ground, almost like they have suction cups on their tiny toes.

In this photo, see how the toddler is pulling up on their toes? This is especially noticeable when they are first learning to walk and balance.

Perhaps, one of the  most important things to realize is how our shoes influence our feet.

Shoes are orthotics. They support our feet or force them into submission- like in high heels. High heels can do a lot of damage to our bodies- no matter how nicely they make our behinds look in skinny jeans.

feet-1840937_1920Knees: increased pressure by 26% through the knee (knees are also affected posturally as described below)

Calves: tightens/shortens the calf muscles

Achilles (Calf tendon): Shortens and risks tearing when barefoot

“Pump Bump” or Haglund’s Deformity:     bony enlargement on the back of the heel from rubbing/irritation

Posture: whole body mechanics are different with the sacrum rocked forward, increased strain through the knee, increased pressure in the lumbar spine, anterior head carriage, etc.

Ball of foot: pushes weight forward into an area that isn’t designed for it, creating metatarsalgia (the higher the heel, the more pressure through the forefoot)

Hammertoes/Hallux Valgus: from “squishing” the foot into the toebox

What does it all mean?

It is important to go barefoot sometimes! Especially in grass or sand where your muscles in the feet are forced to work.

If you are a runner or walker, get your shoes professionally fitted to be sure that they are correct for your gait and foot type.

For that matter, have your gait assessed to be sure that you are running properly and prevent future injury.

Have your Chiropractor assess your feet to ensure that they move properly and to help you decide if exercises, mobilizations, or orthotics are right for you.

 

 

 

 

Your knee pain may not be knee pain.

One of the most valuable things I use in my chiropractic exam is functional screening, which is looking at how the body’s joints move. It gives me insight into patterns of motion that can result in pain and dysfunction. For example, the knee is particularly vulnerable to altered biomechanics in other parts of the body.

The knee is, most basically, a hinge.

Because of this, it is significantly affected by the biomechanics of the hip, pelvis, and ankle/foot. Joint restrictions and/or muscular imbalances in these areas are incredibly common from everyday activities like sitting, improper footwear, or repetetive activities. The patterns that we create in our everyday life change the way our joints move and can cause stress in joints and tissues that are farther away.

For example, when the gluteus medius muscle is weak or inhibited (not firing when or how we want it to), it does not properly compress the hip joint. This causes the thigh bone, or femur, to change its angle, resulting in increased pressure on the inner part of the knee joint. The medial/inside part of the knee is usually the first place that arthritis shows up on x-ray of the knee. Slight narrowing of the joint (inside the circle below) is the first physical indicator that the knee is under stress.

knee-xray

Clinically, knee issues show up as pain! Remember, knee pain may not be a problem with the knee!

As a chiropractor, I evaluate to see which muscles or joints are impacting the function of the knee and work with you to strengthen or stretch them appropriately. Many times it is the gluteus medius, but can also be a number of other muscles or tissues.

When it comes to aches and pains, it is important to have a professional evaluate your mechanics for you- you cannot appropriately assess yourself. Only when you know what the true problem is, can you correct it with exercises, stretches, and joint manipulation. Otherwise you can create new problems!

I am a prime example of this. When I was working on my internship to complete my Masters in Sport Science and Rehabilitation, I spent many hours each week in a PT clinic helping to evaluate patients and work with them on their exercises. Thinking that I was helping myself, I did all of the exercises with the patients. In 4 months, I had increased my knee pain, given myself plantar fascitis, and irritated my pelvic joints. Not all of those exercises were appropriate for my body and its previous sports injuries. It took being evaluated for my own movement patterns and months of diligent corrective exercises to undo what I thought was going to help me.

Understanding how your body works and starting from a basic analysis can help to diagnose problem areas and correct problems before they begin. Pain is a warning sign that something is not right within the body. Before you cover it up or dismiss your pain, get assessed and see what can be done to strengthen and support your body.

References:

SBR Sport

Dr. Dooley Noted