Just last week I had a new client come in with neck and shoulder pain. He was an older man in decent shape. He had visited several doctors and had been to physical therapy with no luck in relief. I examined him and found that his neck, shoulders, and chest muscles were soft. His range of motion was good with no restrictions. He said that everybody had worked only on his upper body. Some offered braces, injections, and strength training exercises to alleviate the pain. I could not see anything that could possibly cause him discomfort in his neck and shoulders. Then an idea hit me to look at his lower body, especially his feet and ankles. Oh my gosh, his hips, legs, and feet were hard as a rock. He had very limited range of motion in all his lower joints. He thought it was just old age that was causing his pain, when in reality, it was lack of movement and shoes.
We have historically told each other that as we age, we should slow down. The truth if the matter is, we should speed up. Sitting during the day caused this man to tighten the front of his thighs and the inner thighs. The shoes he was told to wear prevented his feet from actually working properly and his gait prevented his calf muscles from elongating properly. Sitting in a recliner may feel good, but they are the worst thing for older people to sit in. First, sitting causes the front of the thighs and inner thighs to shorten which will cause the pelvis to tilt forward when they stand. The muscles in the stomach will atrophy and shorten which will pull the upper body forward adding to the the low back stiffness originally caused by the thighs. This is a main reason why so many old people walk bent over. We blame it on arthritis, but in my practice, I find that tight muscles cause the bent over walk more than anything else. Lastly, reclined back in the chair, car seats will do the same, causes the muscles on front of the neck and the chest muscles to shorten which can lead to the hump back look. Next time you see someone reclined back in a chair watching TV, look at the angles of their body while reclined. Then when they stand up, most times you will see the same angles in the standing position as they had in the reclined position. For that person to stand up straight, it takes too much muscle contraction on the back side which can lead to compression on the discs and nerves. The scary part is , many people sleep all night in their recliner because their body is so stiff, it hurts to lay flat. The more you sit in a recliner, the worse your body will feel when you stand.
The calves and feet are greatly affected by the shoes we wear and the length of our gait. You will hear me say over and over, 99% of all the people have never stretched their calves properly. That is a bold statement, I know, but we have 4 calf muscles and when you watch people stretch their calves they typically use the standard calf stretch you learn in the gym. The problem here is, that is an Achilles tendon stretch and does not address any of the 4 calf muscles. So learning how to stretch the calves properly will increase the range of motion in the ankles which will lengthen your stride and , believe it or not, relieve your neck and upper back pain. The shorter your stride, the more you will lead with your nose when you walk. This will cause mid back pain and neck stiffness.
The shoes are another story. Most clients I see, have muscles in their that have atrophied from years of wearing shoes with arch supports, heel supports, and thick soles. These things were designed to stop immediate pain, but will affect your whole body long term. The arch of your foot is suppose to take the impact every time your feet hit the ground. This protect your knees and hips. The impact can be up to 10 times your body weight. We have all been told we should walk heel to toe, right? the heel supports causes us to walk that way and that sends the impact up through your bones with every step. We should step on the whole foot with most of the impact right behind the ball of your feet. Finally, thick sole shoes do feel comfy, but your have 272 nerves on the bottom of your feet which tell your brain when the level of the ground changes so you won’t fall down. If the sole of your shoes are too thick, the brain has no way of preventing you from falling down. The problem is, we have worn these shoes that were designed for immediate relief and now out feet are too weak to just go cold turkey and change. We have to work at building up the stamina and strength in our feet so we can walk like we were designed to do.
It is work to change all of these things s, so don’t do it all at the same time. Take it step by step. You are welcome to view my videos on YouTube at, The Muscle Repair Shop, or contact me at https://www.musclerepairshop.com. I can help you improve your gait and posture to stop the nagging aches and pains that plague so many older people. Aches and pains are not just age related, it is bad mechanics and frankly, most practitioners are either not trained in body mechanics or they just don’t have the time to help you. You can help yourself stop the pain.