Sunday, May 16, 2010

Shoulder the Load

This is the last installment of my series on Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) and overall function/biomechanics. In my first article, I gave you an introduction to function. The second article focused on how VFFs will help those of you struggling with degenerative hip pain. And, my third article tackled how VFFs allow a more functional breathing pattern. Finally, in this last article, we’ll travel (almost) as far away as we can get from the foot and make the correlation between wearing VFFs and that on-going shoulder pain you have been dealing with.

It might sounds like a bit of a stretch that your shoes and foot position can impact your shoulder pain, especially if this is the first article of mine you are reading. If you haven’t read them, I would suggest going back and doing so. The basic premise of what I am saying is that the foot bone is connected to the leg bone—put simply, the body is a unit. By keeping that in mind, we have to know that our shoes and feet will impact our shoulder.

As a refresher from previous articles, remember that when wearing your VFFs the load joints of the body are allowed to ‘lock’ and stabilize like they are designed to. This stable chain reaction flows from the foot, up the leg, creating a more stable ankle, knee, and hip. In the last article I told you how VFFs lead to a more functional breathing pattern and increase your lung capacity. If your VFFs stabilize your hip and lumbar spine, I believe they have to be stabilizing your shoulder. Take the skeletal system out of it, and we can connect your pelvis and shoulders through two muscles: the External Oblique that is connected to, and travels ‘up’ from, the pelvis, and the muscle it digitates (connects) with, the Serratus Anterior, that travels from the lateral ribcage up to, and connecting with, the shoulder/scapula. The other thing to keep in mind is that the Diaphragm also digitates at the same point where the External Oblique and Serratus Anterior come together. If we are impacting your breathing, as previously discussed, then we have to be impacting your shoulder and its ability to function correctly. Pretty cool, huh?

Taking into consideration that the External Oblique, Serratus Anterior, and Diaphragm all come together at the same point, and we start to get a clearer picture as to how VFFs will improve your function. If the hip (specifically the pelvis and the hip flexor and external oblique that attach to it) is allowed to function better, and the diaphragm is allowed to function better, the Serratus Anterior, and therefore, the shoulder position, have to follow suit and will function better as well.

Again, put simply, your foot position and the shoes you’re wearing impact your shoulder pain. VFFs allow for a more functional body, not just a more functional foot. The functional foot mechanics simply start the chain reaction. The shoulder, and the pain you have been suffering from, have no choice but to, quite literally, straighten up. I believe there is nothing inherently wrong with your shoulder. Sure, you might have a torn rotator cuff, but the bigger concern is why you have a torn rotator cuff. I believe your condition is temporary and changeable, as long as we stay focused on that question of ‘why’ the cuff is torn. The answer to the question is simple: it’s the position of the shoulder. By wearing your VFFs and doing your personalized Egoscue E-cises your pain will be eliminated in no time. Notice I didn’t say ‘your pain will be managed’ but instead, ‘your pain will be eliminated’.

If you want to get a head start on your overall function and biomechanics you can CLICK HERE to download four e-cises that will help you start living life PAIN FREE! We have received an amazing response to this series, and I encourage you to keep the comments and questions coming! Several of you have chosen to do webcam therapy with us here at the clinic and you are seeing great results. Egoscue will help you reach your goals. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call us at 615.771.8556. Keep moving….barefoot!

Breathe Easy

This is Part 3 of a 4-Part Series on how function and biomechanics relate to wearing your Vibram FiveFingers.


Don’t sit down! And if you are already sitting, get up! Walk to your bathroom, close the door, and stand facing the mirror in as little clothing as possible. Now take a deep breath. Good. Again. Excellent. Now, one more time, and pay attention to what your shoulders are doing. Are they rising up toward the ceiling? Are your shoulders rounding forward as your ribcage elevates? My guess is that they most likely are. And, if this is the case, I can assume your breathing is very much compromised.

“But it’s just my breathing” you might be thinking. Yes, I understand this is an “unconscious” motion…you don’t have to think about or remind yourself to breathe, but the fact that you take 12-15 breaths per minute, for a total of about 20,000 breaths per day, makes breathing extremely important, to say the least.

The vast majority of us walking around are only using a fraction of our total lung capacity, and to put it bluntly, the more oxygen we’re missing out on, the faster we are dying. Think back to the exercise from above. Remember, your shoulders were moving up and down. In the ideal breathing pattern, your chest and shoulder level should remain unchanged during the breath. The movement should not be elevation (North-South), but rather your chest and ribs should expand East-West as your lungs fill. If your shoulders rise up and hinge forward with your breath, you are not using the correct motor pattern, which will lead to tension throughout your body.

In East-West breathing the lower rib cage and lower back expand horizontally upon taking a breath. The diaphragm contracts and descends into the abdominal area of the body, allowing for a deeper breath that fills the lower lobes of your lungs with needed oxygen. To quickly test this movement on yourself, place your thumbs on the kidney area of your lower back and your index fingers on your side abdominal muscles, just below your lowest rib. As you breathe in your fingers and thumbs should feel as if they are being pushed outward. If they are being drawn in (your chest is moving North-South), you are not stabilizing your torso due to postural compensations. This movement must be addressed.

But this is an article about Vibram FiveFingers (VFF), right? RIGHT! So, why am I talking about breathing? Because I believe wearing your VFFs will help you breath better! Wait…what?

In the last article, I talked about the ‘locking’ mechanism of the metatarsals that takes place right after the heel hits the ground. When wearing the VFFs, the foot spreads and the metatarsals spread creating a more stable foot. This stabilizing ‘domino effect’ happens all the way up the leg, from the ankle to the knee and finally to the hip…but it doesn’t stop there. Because the body is a unit, it can’t stop there.

If we continue following the chain up the body, we know that as we impact the hip, we are impacting the spinal column. Both the primary hip flexor (iliopsoas) and the primary breathing muscle (diaphragm) attach to your lumbar spine. If you are making your hip more functional by wearing your VFFs, you have to be placing a new stimulus on the lumbar spine and diaphragm, thus creating a more functional, efficient breathing pattern because of where the muscles attach to the lumbar spine. The combination of your Egoscue menu, in conjunction with allowing the body to move like it is designed to, will increase your diaphragm function, allow you to use more of your total lung capacity, and up your energy level.

If you want to get a head start on your overall function and biomechanics you can CLICK HERE to download four e-cises that will help you start living life PAIN FREE! Stay tuned for our fourth and final installment on Vibrams and function coming next week!


The premise of The Egoscue Method is postural therapy: realigning the body to its original design blueprint through proper functional muscle engagement and without the use of drugs, surgery or manipulation. John Elder is the Clinic Director and Owner of the Franklin, Tennessee location. John found the Method at the age of 16 after suffering for two years with a bulging disc in his lower back. He has lived the last 16 years pain free and the last 5 years as an Egoscue Therapist sharing his story of hope with others throughout the south. Contact John today by emailing or by calling the Nashville Clinic at 615.771.8556.