Joyful Movement

Welcome to my blog. I've designed this site as a resource for existing and potential bodywork clients, and anybody else who has an interest in improving their relationship to their body.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Many of my clients come to me for some kind of painful condition. Often, we are able to find greater range of motion with less pain as a result of treatment. While this is a very good thing, we must remember that if our body is used to operating within certain parameters (like a sore back or twisted toe) for say, some number of years, you will need a period of adjustment before jumping back into normal activity.

 For example, two weeks ago I was preparing for a solo backpacking trip into the High Sierra. Recalling past experiences of painful bunions while carrying a pack, I booked a couple of appointments with my Rolfer™ to help my feet get ready for the trip.

Sure enough, during those sessions we found that the bones of my midfoot were jammed and the tendons correspondingly displaced, predisposing my feet to that painful process of bone formation that we call a bunion. My Rolfer eased the bones back into place and relocated the tendons, so that immediately upon standing up my feet felt like leaf springs instead of stumps. My feet also pointed forward, rather than splaying outward as they had done since childhood.

I bounced out of the office and shortly thereafter, hefted a fifty-pound pack up and down the passes of the High Sierra for dozens of rocky miles. I also developed a mild case of Achilles tendonitis in my left foot, a condition I had never experienced before in decades of backcountry travel.

Why now?

As I gimped morosely along the dusty trail leading back to the trailhead, I had plenty of time to ponder the pain now stabbing the back of my heel with every step.

In the high elevations of the Sierra are krummholz: sub-alpine pine trees that grow close to the ground. These trees are recognizable by their tortured and twisted countenances, their trunks leaning with the prevailing winds and the winter snowpack. They are perfectly adapted to their environment.

In a way, my feet were the same: the tendons and muscles, including the big Achilles attaching to the back of the heel, had adapted to the rotations and relatively limited mobility in their boney structure. After half of a lifetime, those soft tissue structures were quite happy and capable of doing their jobs within that context. I probably would never have noticed any limitations or wanted to correct them but for the unfortunate presence of those darn bunions. In the span of a week, my feet were Rolfed into achieving significantly more mobility, and then forced to carry loads much greater than my body weight without any pre-conditioning.

It would be like uprooting krummholz from its craggy granite perch and stuffing it feet first into a coastal redwood forest. It’s hard to undo millions of years of evolution that quickly. Of course, the tree will die.

Luckily, instead of dying, my foot simply developed an overuse injury. Also, luckily, that overuse injury has largely healed itself within a few days of easy walking around (and without a pack.)

 If you are an athlete, whether recreational or otherwise, make sure to ease back into your normal activities slowly after receiving treatment, even and especially if you feel better than ever before. The payoff will be many years of enhanced functionality and performance, without the risk of unanticipated injury.