The Back of the Heel is Connected To…The Back of the Head???

In my last blog, I talked hamstrings. Now let’s look at the cervical compression that the drawing showed:

IMG_1494

I WILL eventually get to low back issues, but this post is going to address the connectivity of connective tissue. How it’s all, you know, connected.

Here is a selfie of me checking the tension in my neck by dropping my head (passively–I am not “pushing” my chin down) and very scientifically measuring the distance between chin and chest with my fingers:

photo 2

I apologize for the poor color and want you to know that taking a selfie one handed with an Ipad is REALLY HARD to do!!!

But–can you see that my chin is clearly two fingers away from my chest? And then I did about 5 minutes of calf stretching (2 minutes each foot done singly and then 1 minute of both legs together) and my selfie now looks like this:

photo 1

Barely one finger. And I emphasize that I was NOT pressing my chin down, it simply released to this position after stretching my lower leg. GO NOW AND TRY IT YOURSELF!! Now, in my last blog I wrote that stretching a muscle doesn’t necessarily result in a lengthened muscle, however, that said, it isn’t for naught that we “stretch”. Fascia DOES respond to tensile (ie stretching) forces and responds by allowing an increase in mobility. I love fascia. You should too. Stretching an area of the body (in this case the lower leg), results in an increase of flow–blood in/lymph out–and an overall softening of the fascial fibers. Sort of like wetting a dried up piece of leather–well, in a way exactly like that–the fibers soften and become malleable. The fascial system has wide ranging connections–along our back side it has fibrous links from heel to forehead. This is similar to grains in wood–if you look at a chunk of sawed wood you will see how one line flows into another.

Stretching DOES serve a purpose and it is something we all need to practice, because our lifestyles don’t regularly take all of our joints through a complete range of motion. Generally our shoes shorten the potential range of the ankle. Our chairs limit knees and hips to a 90 degree angle–which is really not an exciting place for those joints to be. We just need to begin to rethink the whys and hows of our stretching practices. In this example increasing the fluidity of my lower leg resulted in relaxing the tension in my neck. But there is a catch: if my daily activities lead to a reduction of mobility in my lower leg, stretching that area will not have a long lasting effect. In fact, I checked my neck mobility again after a couple of hours of sitting and it was right back where it started. I didn’t feel like taking another selfie, however. Sorry.

Stretching is one part of a whole body movement program. In the very distant past, our ancestors had to do a lot of wide-ranging movements that created multiple demands on their bodies. We have adapted to our current lifestyle–which doesn’t include those ranges of motion and isn’t a great thing for optimizing our health. While our necks are relaxed, let’s stretch our minds together and explore more about what whole body mobility means! Watch for my next post for more!! This is sort of starting to feel like a mini series 🙂

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