Are you one of the many people who thinks that the “pounding” during running or the “impact” of downhill hiking is bad for your joints?
I used to think this too! It was drilled into my brain on a very visceral level when I had to hike 7 miles downhill on a “bad” knee and by the time I got to the bottom I had TWO bad knees (click here for that story). I believed the terrain was the problem and I didn’t hike again for 6 YEARS! Now I know better.
With SO many people experiencing pain on the downhill, or pain through impact sports like running, it’s logical to conclude that the sport or the terrain are “bad” for your joints.
I’m here to tell you it is NOT the pounding, impact or downhill that is bad!
I never would have believed this myself had I not experienced first hand being unable to run or hike for 8 and 6 years respectively, only to find out I can hike ridiculously steep 14ers here in Colorado (mountains above 14,000 feet), even run down them, without any pain at all – if I take care of my body before going out there.
The downhill and running are NOT the problem; they simply highlight what is already dysfunctional or unhealthy in our bodies.
If you are someone who normally does NOT have pain unless you try to run or hike downhill, and only during these activities you experience foot or ankle pain, shin splints, knee pain or hip pain, then chances are…
Your fascial system has lost its SPRING!
Our body is made up mostly of fascia, and that fascial system’s make-up is like a giant web that is meant to be elastic and flexible, able to absorb impact for us while helping us ‘spring’ out of sports such as running.
Do you ever wonder WHY pain happens? When it hits we’re often shocked because it seemed to come out of nowhere. People use terms like “I threw out my back” even if they were doing something as benign as weeding a garden!
Or knee pain might hit suddenly while on a hike, when hiking didn’t hurt at all for decades, and you blame the downhill “pounding” because that’s what everyone thinks is “bad” and you just so happen to be going downhill.
Little do most of us realize that we’ve been doing things our entire life (and one thing in particular) that has been building and building momentum toward injury or pain. Whatever you were doing when pain finally happened was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. The MAIN CAUSE is almost always something else (unless you’re in an accident or have a traumatic injury).
Watch the video!
It’s a lot easier for me to “show and tell” this particular nugget of wisdom than to write about it…though I’ll be doing that too.
The “one leg” phenomenon:
Not everyone does this to an extreme, but I would venture to guess that 80% of us do. I include myself in that figure, though I am now very aware of it.
I call it “celebrity pose” or “sassy hip” pose 🙂
Why do we lean on one leg?
Most of us choose a leg we feel more comfortable on as children, and as we get older we use that leg any time we’re standing around: at a party, in line at the grocery store, waiting for our morning latte or posing for pictures!
If you have an injury on one leg – say, you sprain your ankle, break your leg or have knee surgery – you may end up on your OTHER leg out of necessity, because you’re taking the pressure off the injured leg. If you keep it up though, you’re likely to have pain or an injury on the leg that has been compensating.
No matter the reason, it can wreak havoc!
Why is this so “bad”?
It may seem like an innocent and harmless habit, but over the last 8 years I have seen it be the primary cause of pain from plantar fasciitis to shoulder issues in a large majority of my clients.
When I talk about primary causes I am ALWAYS looking for the habit or traumatic event that is causing whatever pain shows up in the body. I might talk about a “root cause” in the body, but we HAVE to find the primary cause that is creating the root physical cause if we’re going to eliminate the pain for good AND prevent it from coming back. Otherwise we’re doing nothing but ‘managing’ pain and I hate managing pain! I’m not in the pain management business…I always want to eliminate it for good.
That’s why this is so important to know about.
What happens due to this habit, physically speaking?
First let me say that I am not a doctor, and medically speaking there is “no known cure” for arthritis. Everything in this blog post and accompanying video is my opinion. I am not attempting to diagnose or cure anyone.
I’m inspired to do this episode of Mobility Mastery Monday on arthritis after a new client flew from the east coast to Colorado to get my professional opinion on her condition. She was here last week and saw me for three sessions within a 5 day period.
Her sessions with me were illuminating for both of us and it got me thinking a lot about arthritis.
I want to start a conversation about this debilitating condition that affects 3 million NEW people every year in America. There is “no known cure” for arthritis. After working on so many people and every imaginable “itis” with tremendous success over the last 8 years, I want to challenge that assumption.
To be clear, I am NOT addressing Rheumatoid arthritis in this post, which is an autoimmune disorder and quite different. .
I believe with absolute conviction that arthritis is 100% PREVENTABLE.
I’ve worked on quite a few people that were told by doctors they had “pre-arthritis.” I’ve also worked with clients who were told they had osteoarthritis in a joint.
In every instance we were able to reverse it: no more pain, no more aching, no inflammation.
I haven’t had the opportunity to work with many clients who have full blown arthritis. That’s why I was excited to work with Michelle.
My wish for each and every one of us this year is that we learn to trust our body, listen to its messages and in doing so become unstoppable.
I love that word – unstoppable – because to me it means that no matter what, we are committed to feeling our best and doing what we love. It does NOT mean being reckless or stupid and pushing our body past its limits only to become sidelined for months. It does not mean we are so superhuman we never have pain.
Being unstoppable means we’re committed to doing what we love, and when pain does rear its head, we know how to figure out what is going on and give our body what it needs as quickly as possible so we can get back out there to our trails, ski slopes, mountaintops or the simple joys of playing with the kids in our lives without worry.
One of your secret weapons against all those aches, pains and injuries is going to be your trusty foam roller.
The question I’ve been asked the most is:
“What kind of foam roller should I buy?”
This episode is for all of you struggling to decide which one is right for you.
If you’ve already figured out the best foam roller for yourself but you know someone else wondering what to buy…share this post and help a friend out.
It’s all right there in the video, but if you want a little more help in deciding…
*This technique was originally featured in a testimonial blog post but I decided it needed its own post.
If you have IT Band issues, you’ll love (ok maybe love/hate!) this technique.
Your IT Band actually needs to be “tight” to a certain degree. For a little more on this and why I’m not a fan of rolling your IT Band like most people do from hip to knee with a straight leg, see this post.
The IT Band is comprised mostly of fascia. In fact it’s more like a giant tendon than a muscle! But it IS a muscle, and because it has so much fascia in it…it is very prone to fascial adhesions (lumps or balls of soft tissue strands all stuck together), sometimes the size of grapefruits!
When these adhesions become too large or tight it can result in inflammation of the IT Band itself, as well as knee pain, hip pain and other issues. In order to create permanent change and release these fascial adhesions for good we need to PIN, stretch and release them through compression and movement that breaks them up. We want to give that ITB fascia the SPACE it needs to function well.
If you suffer from ITBS go get your foam roller right now, try this and see if you don’t feel immediate relief!
If you have a severe case of ITBS or if you’re a runner, you may want to add this to your weekly mobility and injury prevention arsenal. I like to use this before every run because it creates more “spring” and I not only feel like a better runner but a faster one.
Most people I know experience this at least once in their life (if not repeatedly): pain between the shoulder blades. It can feel like a ball is stuck there, or it can feel like a sharp knife, or maybe it only hurts through certain ranges of motion or when you’re sleeping. Whatever the case may be, it’s NO FUN right? But it IS reversible!
Keep in mind, what I’m about to give you isn’t a full solution, but it should still provide some good relief (and some of you may get full relief).
Quick question: How’s your posture?!
Are your shoulders forward rotated? Are you hunched over at a desk all day or are you constantly bent over looking at your phone? Tsk tsk! (Hey I’m guilty of the phone thing too, but do my best to avoid it because it wreaks HAVOC on the cervical spine!)
The good news is, all of these things are avoidable through posture correction, by moving your computer to eye level (or better yet get a standing desk!) and holding your phone at eye level (hey, you might look like an old lady/man but you’ll avoid putting a 60 POUND pressure on your cervical spine!)
The more you can do to AVOID these bad posture habits, the better off you’ll be long-term.
Ok, moving on to what you can do right now to get some relief.
If you have tight calves (and if you’re active you probably have tight calves) then your body will thank you for doing this stretch.
First let me say that while this is a SUPER powerful stretch, it’s not a FULL solution for any of the following. With that said, it’s the best possible one-off solution I can give you right now, and if you do this daily for a week I would be shocked if you don’t feel significantly better for any or all of these:
This ONE technique can address ALL kinds of issues:
Plantar fasciitis, or pain on the bottoms of the feet
Achilles tendinitis, pain or tightness
Scar tissue build-up from past sprained or broken ankles (which can lead to ankle immobility and compensation patterns up your entire chain)
Limited range of motion in the ankles
Tendonitis on the tops of the feet (usually originating in the shins, so if this is you then focus on pinning your tibialis anterior or shin muscle more than calf)
If I could have every person on this planet study just ONE thing to stay healthy, it would be the fascial system. In a previous post I shared a video by Thomas Myers, who is the fascia expert of our time. He does a wonderful job explaining what fascia is and I recommend you watch that video as well if you’re committed to learning about your fascia. And I wanted to share some of my own thoughts here.
We have more fascia than anything else in our bodies. Fascia (or connective tissue) is the name we give to the web-like structure of tissues that hold us together, from the cellular level to the “sacs” that wrap huge muscle groups.
To the right is a small picture of the fascial system, and you can see how it wraps every individual muscle fibril, fiber, bundle and entire groups of muscles, and then all of that connecting fascia is what turns into tendon and ligament, which in turn attaches to our bones or joints.
All of that fascia is meant to be elastic and flexible and able to move with us freely as we go about our lives and sports. But almost everyone I know today has unhealthy fascia (myself included). Even if you’re not in pain, it doesn’t mean your fascia is in optimal health! And if you are in pain, then your fascia is especially unhealthy and in a state of imbalance.
Fascia is the superhighway for communication from the brain to the body and back again. It houses our nervous system and is the channels through which blood needs to flow to nourish tissues, muscles, joints and organs.
When our fascia is adhered to itself and in a state of dehydration and unhealthy tension then blood won’t flow freely through the body, which can cause all manner of “itis’s” (inflammatory responses like tendinitis, arthritis, bursitis etc). Those knots you feel in your shoulders? That’s not tightness and it’s NOT your muscle! It’s fascia that’s adhered to itself because it’s being pulled on (or overstretched) by bigger more dominant muscles or postural habits, and it’s forming “knots” in an attempt to stay where it belongs instead of being pulled somewhere else.
Imbalances in the fascial system left to right and front to back (leg leg to right leg, or front to back in your legs or upper body) will cause everything from plantar fasciitis to low back and hip pain to shoulder range of motion issues.
When we release tight fascia and put space back into that connective tissue system, blood flows freely, movement becomes fluid and pain stops.
I recently had a client tell me he believes his stigmatism is getting better after just two sessions of opening the fascia in his upper body! I’ve had other clients who came for shoulder pain or migraines tell me they’re seeing better after we unblock the “dams” (tight fascia) blocking blood flow to the ocular nerve!
I could go on and on, and geek out on this all day! But I’ll leave at this for today: fascia is extremely important and if you want to take responsibility for your body’s health, I cannot recommend enough that you start learning more about it and how to stretch it properly and keep it healthy. Which is precisely what I intend to help you do here at Mobility Mastery.
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