No, it’s not. To dash your hopes right from the beginning. Nothing in our body is easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s out of your hands to keep your spine and back healthy. Not at all!
Read on and you will learn how you can contribute a great deal to a healthy spine by keeping your feet in check.
Maybe you were hoping for another answer, but our body is a fascinating, complex thing. An amazing machine, to say the least, designed to our needs. Everything is connected by joints, ligaments, and nerves. Issues that occur at one end of the body can be caused by a body part on the opposite end.
The spine is responsible for some of our most important functions, seemingly simple tasks like standing, sitting and walking upright, plus it hosts our main nerve, the spinal cord. The spinal cord reaches from our head all the way down to our sciatica, which sits at the lower back. And the sciatica is connected to the foot via the sciatic nerve.
Consequently, an issue occurring in our feet might cause pain up in the neck and vice versa.
While the feet are not the only factor in keeping a healthy spine, we know that they are contributing a great deal to the comfort or discomfort of our spine, especially of our lower back which is a very vulnerable body part anyway.
Pain here can be caused by some malfunction or false alignment in the feet, abnormal anatomy or wrong movement of the feet, too little or too much motion in the foot. These malfunctions can be innate, and the consequences manifest themselves to an even stronger level when running (Hello, after-work joggers!) or jumping, or dancing the night away, for that matter.
But even if physically and motion-wise all is good with our feet. Most of us neglect them. Right?
They do all the work when we smash the 10k line on weekend runs or during our shopping tours all around town. Not only boogying all night but even in high heels that we squeeze our poor feet in just to look good. And we don’t show even show them a little bit of love besides the occasional pedicure. They get tight and stiff and cramp up. As the toes don’t move and work much when covered in shoes, the toes’ flexibility decreases as do the muscles in the feet.
No longer! It’s time to take care of our feet, in order to avoid lower back issues.
3 easy to follow rules that can contribute greatly to the physical well-being of your back.
Good footwear. Renew regularly.
Wearing comfortable and high-quality footwear is the golden rule. That’s where the joy of walking begins. Yes, I’m aware that orthopedic shoes are not fashionable items, but if you want to do something good for your body – bring at least a pair of trainers with good footbed for the long walks to the office. You can switch shoes there. It will be much more fun wearing those pretty shoes once your feet have had some rest.
If you’re already wearing good, solid footwear: Make sure you buy a new pair regularly, don’t wait until they fall apart. For heavy impact sports like running that would be every 6 months. Shoes can be worn down uneven, as most of us don’t master a complete balance of weight when running or walking. If you’re wearing uneven shoes, for your spine and hip this feels as if your legs were of different length, which can cause tremendous back pain and severe issues in the long term.
Easy exercises to do from your couch!
The muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your feet need as much exercise as the ones of the rest of your body. Meaning flexibility and strength. The good side is though – you don’t even have to get up for the practice.
Stretch your legs out in front of you. Now flex and stretch out your toes. 10 rounds.
Now stretch and flex your whole feet, bending at the ankle. 10 rounds.
At last, rotate your feet clockwise for 10 rounds, repeat anti-clockwise.
These exercises are part of the warm-up routine in Hatha Yoga. So if you want to add a little yogic feel to it, inhale with flexing, exhale while stretching. When rotating: Exhale going down, inhale coming back up. Slow and controlled movements.
After the feet are nice and warm, let’s finish with a little bit of a challenging toe stretch.
Come onto our knees, and slowly lower your buttocks to sit on your heels, with toes curled under. Now breath. Start off by sitting in this posture one minute, over time you can extend the period of time. I know it can hurt, but trust me, once you sit like this more regularly, the pain makes way for a nice intense sensation that feels like a pure relief for your feet. It’s a popular pose in Yin Yoga, in which you would sit for three to five minutes.
When done, place the top of your feet flat on the mat/floor and slowly sit back on your heels again. Now rock slowly and gently backward on your heels until your knees are lifting up from the floor. In the beginning, they might not do so, but they will over time. You can rock slowly backward and forwards a few times. Then straighten your legs and give them a good shake.
Massage your feet
Chinese medicine and therapy have made use of our body’s energy channels, the so-called Meridians, for centuries. Applying pressure on these spots, activating the channels to heal pain, stimulate organs and relax the entire body is known under reflexology. While in acupuncture small needles are used to do the same. Also, Yin Yoga makes use of Meridians.
Our feet host a whole lot of reflex points, and most of the patients that visit a reflexology therapist come due to back pain, to make use of the feet – spine connection.
Each meridian corresponds to a certain area in our body. Without going into detail of this complex science here, you can give yourself an easy foot massage which will also benefit your spine.
Knock strongly at the outer side of your big toe. Now make your way down to the inner side arch, and finish at the heel. After that, massage each toe separately plus the softer parts of your sole by applying soft pressure – or more if it feels good – with both hands.
If you’re already suffering from back pain, you can find some relaxing and easy yoga exercises for back strength and pain release here.
While some issues of the spine can be avoided by keeping our feet healthy, not all issues are related to our lower extremities. Our posture, innate malposition, wrong movement or old injuries are as much responsible for a pain-free back as are our feet.
See an orthopedic if you suffer from chronic lower back pain or pain in your foot that doesn’t go away.
Some physical issues will also need physiotherapists attention like flat feet or high arches.
But with keeping good care of our feet, and a regular investment in proper footwear, you can do your part in keeping your feet and spine healthy and pain-free.
It will not get easier with age, so let’s do the best we can with small adjustments and exercises in our daily life.
If you explain the benefits to your partner, maybe you will get a free foot massage tonight!
About The Author:
Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method – a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him online: http://www.vikasayoga.com