Foot and hand disease
Many problems arise in the absence of strong hands and feet as we are continually weakened by a culture of physical ease. Many injuries can easily be avoided with a little preventative maintenance.
Foot function is the first thing that I look at when starting with a new client, because patterns in the feet show up throughout the entire body. The pain in your back, knee or shoulder could be coming from your feet — crazy but true. Most people have a lack of foot and ankle mobility due to poor footwear, weakness, tightness and old injuries. Poor foot function affects all movement and becomes exacerbated by age, weight, repetition, bad footwear, miles, etc. It’s like ruining a new set of tires with a bad alignment. Your cartilage is prone to premature wear if your alignment is off. Your feet align your body. If they’re off a little, the wear shows up the chain into your knees, hips, low back, etc.
Self MyoFascial Release (SMFR) goes way beyond foam rolling. In fact, a foam roller will do nothing for your feet. This is where you break out the small tools and dig along the plantar fascia of your foot to relieve tight, weak feet and symptoms from plantar fasciitis. The inside part of your ankle is often very tight, making movement restrictive and making you prone to more ankle rolling because your knee and hip can’t externally rotate. The pressure from poor foot alignment goes to either the knee or the ankle. SMFR can help open this tissue up with better circulation, and better lymphatic drainage to create better function.
Get out and carefully walk around in your natural environment barefoot. Rub your feet into rocks to stimulate blood flow to the tissue and lymphatic flow away from it. Do an entire workout in the grass to slowly strengthen your feet and benefit from grounding. Going too fast will cause major soreness and possibly injury, so go slow at first and ease your way into this. Not your thing? You have other options. Use a golf ball, hire a massage therapist who understands foot reflexology or hire a therapist who knows how to use Graston or gua sha tools. All these techniques work, but nothing beats running around barefoot like a kid.
Get a grip
Poor grip strength accounts for many of the adventure-race injuries that I am seeing. As grip fails, other structures are summoned to engage and help. Then, wham, here comes the shoulder, neck or back injury. This is especially damaging when an athlete or average Joe quickly changes from a two-handed grip to a one-handed grip, doubling the load on the grip.
Or there is just good old domestic weakness. A fine example of this is the contortions people often perform when struggling to open a jar of peanut butter just prior to the realization that many members of our species have the ability to use tools. It’s still fun to watch people try.
Either way, strengthening the structures of the hand and wrist will yield many benefits. Thankfully, we don’t walk on our hands too often. The stuff that we hold on to is the problem. If you are lifting weights to gain hand strength, that is a good start but rock climbers really know where it’s at because they are constantly changing the grip stimuli. You don’t have to start climbing to get great grip strength, although it would get you in great shape. There are many devices to work on hand and wrist strength and SMFR available nowadays.
Get body work done on your hands from a therapist to increase circulation and help lymphatic drainage. Do you see the pattern with creating circulation and lymphatic drainage? It fixes just about every chronic issue and most medical and therapeutic modalities are simply trying to restore these functions to allow the body to heal itself. Another way to do this is with the simplicity of rubber ischemic wraps. These are great for areas like wrists and ankles because you can do it yourself and the techniques is extremely effective at — you guessed it — increasing circulation and lymphatic drainage.
Attention lifters. The cool grip-straps-wrap-devices you use to load up on weight on pulling exercises at the gym is forcing major overload on other joints along the chain creating more long-term damage than you may realize. The cool-grip-gadget is another form of a brace. Braces are for injuries. Ditch the gadgets and grip your pulls like a real paleo man — because paleo men had pull-up bars and free-weights at their gyms.
Steve Wells is a personal trainer and co-owner of Midland Fitness. His column appears on Tuesdays.
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AS OF SATURDAY, JAN. 23