Sunday, July 20, 2014

Your high heels are trying to kill you.

Sure, they make your legs look great, but shouldn't your heels really just be for special occasions?

My massage students and I were discussing postural analysis and common postural dysfunctions in class last night, and at some point, someone asked if heels could affect one’s posture.
“Even wedges?”
“Oh, man….”

So, I thought that this week, I’ll revisit a topic I wrote about some time back…

Yes, wearing high heels - even wedges - on a regular basis can affect all kinds of other structures upstream, all the way to the head.  A small tilt or angle down at the feet can expand into a much greater postural imbalance by the time you reach the head and neck.  This image does a nice job of illustrating some of the cruddy things that heels can do to you, so take a moment to browse, and then I’ll expand on the concept some, because it's not just high heels, and it's not just the feet - it's any sort of foundation within our body, and it's a 2-way street.

If you look at the top right corner of that image, you can see how the altered foot position in high heels creates postural compensations throughout the entire body.  These postural compensations can develop into postural deviations that last well after removing the shoes, if you wear them habitually.  When you're out of alignment, you are also at greater risk for injury (which is a whole topic on its own).

Postural deviations can begin almost anywhere the body, but especially occur in areas I consider "foundations," such as the hips/pelvis and the shoulder girdle/neck area.  If you sit on a wallet, or on a desk chair with an improperly positioned seat or back, if you twist a little to see your computer can develop postural deviations.

While the lower foundations tend to have more of an effect on the structures atop them, this transfer of imbalance can work in both directions.  An imbalance in your shoulders may create an abnormal pull (and pain) as your back tries to correct the imbalance.  As the muscles and fascia of the back connect to and around the hips, they can transfer that pull into the hips, which can then become painful and possibly even continue the transfer down into the knees and feet.  As I mentioned in TMJ, TMD and Massage, the jaw is directly connected to the neck and shoulders.  You can see how improper footwear and your jaw pain might be related, if you give the imbalance enough time to progress from your feet to your jaw.

There’s a lot that we can do in the massage room to help alleviate the pains of these kinds of imbalances.  We can set the stage for, and help kickstart the restoration of proper balance.  But the rubber meets to road in the day-to-day.  It’s always going to be up to each of us to take ownership of our own environment, and how we interact with it as well as read our own posture and movement, so we can restore it, and stop adding to our own dysfunction.

So, my challenge to you: figure out what in your life might be creating a postural deviation for you, and then make a change to eliminate that perpetuating factor.  Perhaps it’s the wallet you’re sitting on, your monitor position, your shoes, or chair?