Alignment 101: Foot Alignment Points

Happy, healthy feet are the key to healthy movement. As we have said before, the feet are the foundation of your body. Just like you wouldn’t want a foundation of a house that is not aligned well or strong, you wouldn’t want the same from the foundation of your body. Again, when it comes to alignment we want to stress that the ultimate goal is not perfectionThe goal is to recognize that how you move plays a huge role in how your body functions. If you are wanting to change your function, spend time exploring your current movement patterns using alignment points to work toward making changes.

Standing with your feet at the correct width apart will allows you to access muscles of your hips that optimize your walking, stabilize your core, and help you keep your balance. Maintaining correct foot alignment requires mobility of the joints and strength of the muscles of your feet. The more mobile your foot and ankle, the better they absorb reaction force of walking...

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Quick Test: Are Your Hips Actually Weight-Bearing?

In order for your hips to be building bone density through the day, they need to be supporting the weight of your pelvis and torso in a certain alignment. 


A common pattern we see with resting standing positions is standing with the pelvis pushed slightly forward (as in the first picture). It is subtle but has major implications for bone health of the hips (not to mention the long term impact of this position on foot health, core strength, and balance).

Shifting the pelvis back so your body weight is carried over the heels (second picture) and maintaining this position throughout the day allows for optimal bone health. However, getting to this position if this is not your usual requires taking a closer look at the muscle groups that attach to the pelvis. 

A quick and simple test to help you determine where you carry your center of mass: make a plumb line from string with something weighted at the bottom. Position yourself facing sideways toward a mirror and find the boniest...

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A Brief Overview of Chronic Pain

As the chronic pain epidemic continues to pour over into the opioid epidemic, new research continues to break down the complexity of chronic pain. Just a few years ago, chronic pain was viewed completely from a biomechanical perspective. When the medical community realized that treating only the injury was not only not working, but the epidemic of chronic pain continued to worsen they realized they needed to take a step back and look at the whole person. What has been discovered has been an eye-opening look at how chronic pain involves factors beyond what is happening within the body tissue. Now, we take a broader look at the whole person and understand chronic pain has a multitude of origins.

The Actual Risk Factors for Chronic Pain

Over time, physicians and other professionals realized the amount of tissue damage being seen on an MRI and the amount of pain a person was experiencing just were not matching up. Beyond that, those who underwent surgical procedures were showing...

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Try This Quick Test for Balance

Try this quick test for balance: how long are you able to stand on one leg without arm support? 

To set up: keep a chair or something you can hold if needed nearby and stand in front of a mirror with your feet hip width apart, shoes and socks off. Place your hands on your hips, shift your weight to one side and pick your opposite foot off the floor. How long can you hold this position?

An adult around age 30 should be able to comfortably hold this position for 30 seconds. In adults over age 65, an inability to hold this for at least 5 seconds indicates a greater risk of falls. Were you surprised by your results? 

We often get asked why we spend so much time practicing single leg standing in therapy. This skill is important because this is the position we spend the most amount of time in while walking! In order to take a step forward, you have to stand on one leg to allow the other leg to swing forward. If you are having difficulty with single leg standing, it is likely your...

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Movement Tips to Avoid Back Pain During Pregnancy

More than two-thirds of pregnant women report low back pain and up to one-fifth report pelvic pain during pregnancy. Reports of pain tend to increase later in pregnancy and interfere with daily activities, sleep, and work (3). About 20% of women who experience low back or pelvic pain during pregnancy report persistent pain for up to 3 years following pregnancy (2).

Chronic pain is complicated and much research has revolved around the term “pain catastrophizing”. Catastrophizing is a process of becoming fixated on pain, magnifying the effects of it, feeling helpless, and expecting negative outcomes associated with pain. Research shows that those who catastrophize are more likely to develop persistent chronic pain and disability. Women who demonstrated pain catastrophizing during their pregnancy were found to be less likely to have been active throughout their pregnancy and more likely to develop persistent pain after (2).

The recommendation of daily physical activity...

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When Body Alignment Does Matter: A Discussion of Chronic Pain and Function

Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States, with an annual cost estimated to be about $100 billion. These costs are associated with healthcare expenses, lost income, and lost productivity. A majority of adults experience acute pain at least once in their lives with about 28% later developing chronic pain (3).

With the nation’s growing opioid epidemic, there has been considerable emphasis on understanding the sources of chronic pain. Many mistakenly believe that tissue damage is directly correlated with a person’s risk of developing chronic pain. Statements from medical professionals to their patients which include “Your MRI shows that you have the spine of an 80 year old and you can expect to be in pain for the rest of your life” or “just avoid stairs or squatting entirely if it your knees are hurting” just further exacerbate the myths surrounding chronic pain.

There is much confusion regarding body alignment, movement,...

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Lessons Learned From Studying My Own Movement

Last month I attended a Move Your DNA weekend workshop at Boomerang Pilates in Toronto hosted by a Nutritious Movement Certified RES. This workshop is intended for anyone who has read Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman, MS to refine the exercises covered in the book. The book uses biomechanics as a lens to explore how our environment has shaped our movement and vice versa. It is designed to help the reader take control of their own health and undo years of bad movement habits. We spent the weekend exploring the use of corrective exercise to improve body alignment for better health.

For me, this weekend was just a small part of a 2 year long process to become a certified RES, which involves nearly 350 hours of movement training. The program heavily emphasizes having a good understanding of your own movement in order to help others improve theirs. My background is in physical therapy, meaning I have spent the better part of the last 10 years extensively studying the human body,...

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Should I Get an MRI for Low Back Pain?

Mounting research indicates that getting an MRI for chronic back pain is more harmful than it is helpful. When someone walks into their doctors office looking for low back pain relief, imaging and medication might be recommended. However, an MRI report may come back with results like “degenerative joint disease” or “bulging discs”. Both of these findings are highly normal and present in up to 50% of the general population. In fact, it would be abnormal if the spine did not show any signs of aging. Once we hear a diagnosis like “degenerative joint disease” we think this is causing our back pain and assume that we will be in pain the rest of our life. This could not be further from the case.

Normal MRI Findings

60% of adults over 60 years of age will show abnormal MRI results, regardless of whether or not they have pain. In some cases, people do have low back pain and an MRI will show no abnormal results. This does not mean pain is...

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Does Flexibility Matter?

We are often asked if stretching is an essential component of a fitness program to prevent injuries. Flexibility, also known as range of motion, is important at any age. But not only is it important to maintain range of motion, to prevent future injury one must also have muscle strength to control their flexibility. There is a very fine balance between keeping the motion of the joints and strength of the muscles in balance. Too much flexibility contributes to reliance on ligaments instead of muscle strength, leading to unstable joints. For a great example, think of how little kids play in a deep squat position for a long amount of time. It takes a lot of muscle strength to stay in that position as well as lower body flexibility to get there in the first place. We are born with a great range of motion, but we tend to lose it as our movement patterns change as we age.

Flexibility prevents your tissues from becoming stiff, allowing you to use certain movement patterns. For...

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The Slow Approach to Health

A common perception in our society is there is one key to living a healthy life that we have not quite figured out yet. Chronic disease is rampant in our aging population so we must be missing something, right? Some unknown, mysterious secret that will change our health in an instant if only we could find it. However, the real truth is health involves many components and is constantly changing as part of a never ending journey. Eliminating one certain type of food or taking a new supplement is never the answer on its own, but can be a small part of the big picture. There is not one magical exercise or one type of food that will completely turn our health around.

Health involves more than looking at objective measures such as calories, weight, and blood pressure. We also need to spend time looking at the quality of our food, movement, and lifestyle. We make daily choices that either help or harm our health. Nothing changes drastically in one day or with one decision. Therefore, the...

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