Stiffness in relation to the body is something that you can describe with the point of just below rigidity. Mobility in this sense means to be supple and free. I have learned from my own experience about the importance of finding the balance between these two imperative aspects in maintaining physical capacity and especially recovery. Once we are injured or suffer any trauma in anyway and we do not possess the “best” treatment and rehabilitation knowledge, most of us will go down a path leading to a chronic vicious cycle involving stress and agony.

So back to the balance between stiffness and mobility. There is enormous support out there in both the literature and society that relaxation is much more beneficial than being stiff. However, for somebody who has had chronic debilitation for a long time, they may not know how much relaxation is ideal. For example, they feel relief from a single leg stance with total relaxation with the arch still pretty strong. BUT the brain and the tissues may be saying: “Oh that is a lot better, lets keep it this way for now.” Then after experiencing this relief, you start to realize that even though this relaxed state feels better than the “complete stiffness” you had before it is “still” causing you discomfort but of a different kind. Then you start to wonder why does it feel like this if “I am relaxed…?” 

Well the answer is that you have forgotten how to find the balance between being stiff and mobile. The brain and body is extremely smart as it keeps causing you discomfort as an alarm system to tell you that something is still off. So it is up to you to find the balance from being in one extreme – completely stiff (during period of recovery) into the other extreme – being completely relaxed. As Functional Movement Systems Gray Cook says: Once you gain some mobility go add some strength. This is the key to maintaining the balance between stiffness and mobility. Also, in a relaxed state as opposed to the stiff state, you will most likely be in a position which will reinforce your strength gains; but just not as ideal as in the balanced state.

Mobility = Towards suppleness and free.
Stability = Towards Stiffness

~Open Our Minds

An experts idea or opinion is not nearly as powerful as scientific evidence; but absolutely never forget that without experiences, science probably would never have existed.

From the quote above, somebody may ask what it means or wonder about the relationship between an experts opinion and science. I will attempt to address this from my own perspective. If you have studied at university or college or have been exposed to the concept of scientific support, then you will know what I am talking about. Almost everybody knows that there are five levels of scientific evidential support; but I will only focus on level 1 versus level 5. Think of level 1 as a very well peer-reviewed and vastly supported article and level 5 as an opinion coming from a regular person with learned innate experience. Before you pick a side or settle for both, think about how they are related to each other because I believe it is essential we understand it. We live in a world of “support” in which science is praised and honoured. We tend to forget the amount of education we can attain from an enriched opinion that can be sought from a regular person on the street. This may be cliché but if you look in every direction you can see at least one potential person with the knowledge that can make enormous changes. This is due to the personal experience that each of us have gone through at any point in our lives. But in today’s society there is less and less “intuition” for what makes sense. Therefore, if somebody tells you their “experts” opinion that makes all the sense in the world, it may still require scientific support for people to even begin to acknowledge. Do not get me wrong though, I absolutely love science because it gives us a sense of what works and what does not work. Science is an educational gift not only from one mind, but a combination of all intelligent minds; and we can never disapprove it. However, if you really think about it science can only educate us about what we “already” know. The world is forever-changing and it is not due to science but actually the personal opinions which will increase and improve our holistic knowledge. Both personal experiences and science have a place in the world even if the latter is praised and honoured a lot more. We just have to always remember that our education from the perspective of science will always be limited but our personal experiences are not. For example, we have heard many cases and incidents about doctors telling patients that they will never be able to walk or run ever again after a drastic accident; but we all know that this isn’t true at all. This is a perfect example of the limitations of academic education even at one of the highest levels (Medical doctors). To put this example into perspective, THESE individuals are the people who you wish to seek when you have been given depressing answers and they have the potential to teach you strategies beyond the limits of science. Why? Because they have unique “details” and their “opinions” alone may weigh more than all of science. This is the definition of in-depth education.

Final note: We should of course be cautious when it comes to following through with ideas and opinions because not all of them are good and acceptable for you; but if it makes sense it does not hurt to try. Never underestimate its potential to changing your life.

~Open Our Minds

Barefoot Benefits:

The type of shoes and how to decide on a pair of fitting shoes is probably the most important key to preserving healthy feet because in the modern society we inevitably have to wear shoes throughout our day. Aside from footwear, we should encourage kids, adults and elderly to get familiar with and then start practising “barefoot techniques and exercises” outside in natural environments. These environments could be a grass field, mud, sand, rocky areas (if able to tolerate), or simple pavement or cement. And last but not least I realize that walking barefoot may have benefits associated with the practice of reflexology as the feet have an enormous amount of “reflexes” in the feet which correspond to the function of our glands and organs in our bodies. There are also a large amount of receptors under the feet which may starve from the lack of “feel” and sensory information if our feet are in shoes all day everyday.

Type of shoes and what to look for:

In my opinion, the best shoes are the ones that feel  the most comfortable to your own feet. However, this does not mean that “comfort” equals the “best” shoes; because we may have gotten used to a squishy pair of shoes or a shoe with a very high heel. If this is you then you need practice barefoot walking on natural ground in order to allow your feet to re-educate itself into healthy feet. Anyway, enough of the “why,” lets talk about the “what.” I will not go into detail about each type of shoe but I will point out some general attributes of them. The best and most natural shoes that mimic barefoot feel that I have learned about are “Vivobarefoot, Nike free trainers, and Huaraches (worn by the superhuman tribe, Tarahumara). The Vivobarefoot shoes have a thin sole which feels like you are touching the ground directly. It also has a wide enough toe box at the front to allow the toes to move freely, and finally it has no arch support which facilitates our natural foot arch to become stronger. The Huaraches are probably the thinnest footwear out there which mimics barefoot walking and running to its full potential. Since it is a sandal it is even better than the VivoBarefoot shoes. Lastly, we have the extremely popular Nike free trainers. These shoes are excellent because they have the properties of the Vivobarefoot shoes except for having a thicker sole. It is also extremely flexible which allows the foot and toes to freely move around and promote a natural “foot workout” within the shoes. As the renowned Physiotherapist and Coach, Kelly Starrett said, “we only need a sole thick enough to prevent bruising.” After reading this I hope you find the appropriates shoes to accommodate your daily activities.

Exercises to increase awareness, feel, and proprioception:

As Barefoot walking and running author Michael Sandler said, “we do not know where our feet wants to go in a pair of shoes because they cannot “feel;” only the rich sensory information from our feet contacting the ground would be able to tell us that.” The enormous amount of mechanoreceptors in our feet which function to feel and send information to our brain seems obvious that only by direct contact with the ground will we be able to “feed” these receptors and therefore, our brain and nervous system. By being in shoes everyday and all day, our feet becomes “foreign” to natural ground even if we have no injuries or debilitations. You can go outside and try this by testing barefoot walking or even just standing on “snow, bed of rocks, grass, cement etc. After a while or even a few minutes you may start complaining about the aches and pains or even saying that it is “weird.” Again, the reason is that our feet have becoem “foreign” to natural environments.

Reflexology:

By walking on different natural surfaces we allow our feet to directly contact the ground and the reaction force from the ground can stimulate our “reflexes” and may cause changes in our glands and organs. It is obvious that some areas of the feet will take in more pressure and this may be the key to which organs and glands receive more or less benefits.

~Open Our Minds,

I have recently discovered more sound education in regards to musculoskeletal problems. Of course, I am not a Physiotherapist but just a a student who wishes to be in the future.  But since I have seen so many healthcare professionals for treatment, it has reinforced my understanding of the three R’s (Reset, Reinforce, and Reload) from the Functional Movement Systems concept. Personal experience is as we all know the greatest back-up in whatever we want to preach. Here goes my attempt from my perspective.

The three R’s can be applied to two broad settings, rehabilitation and Fitness.

Rehabilitation (dysfunction along with pain):

Reset is pretty straight forward and it means we must restart our once innate neuromuscular motor control system or simply (movement) by using release/reset techniques to “free” up our body holistically or wherever the source of the problem arises. This could be done by seeing an RMT, Acupuncturist, PT, Chriopractor, etc. But I realized that the order is important for optimal recovery! For example, if somebody had chronic pain for 5-10 years or more, they should seek healthcare professionals in this order. First, see an RMT, Acupuncturist, Chiropractor, Dry needling specialist, or somebody who does deep tissue work or manipulation etc. Of course you can try resetting things yourself by using apparatuses such as a foam roller, tennis ball, golf ball, lacrosse ball, dowel, etc, but these methods will obviously not be as good as seeking a professional. Second, seeing a professional who can provide you advice on how to “support” your issue will be the next step. This is called reinforcement and can range from an orthotic insert to protective braces etc. This could be a Pedorthist, Podiatrist, Sports Medicine Specialist etc. Third is reloading. With all the work done in the first 2 steps, it is time to start moving/exercising with respectable load. The best professionals for this would be a movement expert or Physiotherapist who has knowledge in how mobility, stability, and motor control etc play part in holistic recovery.

Fitness (Can have dysfunction but not necessarily debilitating pain or pain at all):

Resetting for fitness goals is a little bit different from rehabilitation because there is usually no debilitating pain. Often with some guidance on how to use good technique to release/mobilize your body (tissues) you will be able to get back into your routine. You could use a foam roller, dowel, or various sizes of balls as mentioned above, to do this. Of course, seeing a professional will speed up the process or get into areas that you do not know how. Reinforcing for fitness is in my opinion to move properly and functionally with good form. It does not have to be perfect but it has to be stable each and every time. Reloading is when you have addressed the first 2 steps and now feel more confident and less restricted you can attempt to challenge respectable loads once again. This way your fitness goals and gains will be more effective and efficient.

A few more notes from personal experience:

A dynamic mobility stretch is often better than a stationary dynamic and static stretch.

Rolling the bottom of your feet depends on your problem. In my now more informed opinion, rolling with a dowel or rod is more effective if you want to “re-balance” unstable feet. A ball is more for pinpoint “tightness/stiffness” but often the issue will have caused more problems in other areas due to compensation. The technique to rolling must be slow and controlled for reducing irritation to our tissues and allow our nervous system to relax thus relaxing our tissues.

Mechanoreceptors also play a role in our proprioception to help us adapt and regain unique individual “sensations.”

 

~Open Our Minds

 

Self-limiting exercises are one of the most important methods of exercise that can decrease the risk of injuries and with enough training can “surpass normal functional limits (video below).”

If you ask anybody or “everybody” what do they wear when they go for a run they will say a pair of shoes of some kind. You will rarely hear them say barefoot! The difference between running in shoes and running without shoes has a great impact in our everyday health. For example, running in shoes allows us to run longer distances and for longer periods of time but it will increase our risk for injuries. This is true because of two important perspectives. From a physiological perspective, in this situation we will innately use our cardiovascular system as a limiting capacitor for exercise. In other words, the structural integrity of our ligaments, tendons, and muscles will be put at risk and thus are actually weaker due to the shoes over-protective support. Therefore, what we should do is use our feet as our “exercise capacity limiter” because it will allow us to reach fatigue honestly and prompt our brain to tell us to stop when we’ve truly had enough.

From a bio-mechanical perspective, the point of force impact when running in shoes is transferred up from the heel area due to “heel-strike” during a run, increasing the risk for injuries. The point of force impact is further front in the mid-sole area when running on barefoot and this method decreases the risk for injuries “naturally.” In other words, we will naturally avoid too much heel-strike and land more on our mid-sole.

Therefore, running in barefoot has many benefits from simply developing stronger intrinsic and extrinsic structures and decreasing the risk for injuries to surpassing human body limits (talked about in video below).

Caution: Although, barefoot walking and running can provide large benefits, be disciplined and listen to your body when “gradually” progressing into its lifestyle. A good way to go about achieving this is to gradually work into shoes with a lower platform before you put your feet into shoes such as the vibram five fingers, vivobarefoot, Nike free trainers or other wide toe-boxed and flat shoes, which are much closer to the ground. These shoes are the “goal” but we must work progressively or there will be unwanted consequences.

Credits to: Functional Movement Systems.

This video tells us about the secrets of our human body and what it can do if we did not have all the modern technological ease. (Talks about the point I did not really mention above, “surpassing human body limits).”

~Open Our Minds

“Stability is the ability to hold a position in the presence of full range of motion. If you don’t have full range of motion, you will have some type of skewed stability. If your end ranges are not clear or have pain/restriction, your entire sense of proprioception through the whole span of motion will be skewed in some way with muscles not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.” – Gray Cook

This is absolutely imperative and true for exercising and performing effectively in any setting. It makes obvious sense that without full range of motion you will have some sort of skewed stability that cannot be seen by the naked eye. If you have pain then the instability may be more noticeable. For example, if you have pain in your right shoulder, then while lifting external loads with your right arm/hand you will likely be unable to generate as much strength and power as you are truly capable of. In addition, you may display an “awkward lift” due to the lack of range of motion. Therefore, an important point to understand is that during the entirety of your lift there will be varying levels of compensations happening all over your body; which is an indication that you are fighting against your body in order to complete the lift as satisfactory as possible. In other words, your other muscles will be doing things they “should not be doing” while the main muscles involved in the lift will be ill-activated or not doing what they are suppose to do.

Try to correct yourself and achieve the proper range of motion for your whole body before attempting to exercise seriously. This will in turn decrease your risks for injuries in the future.

~Open Our Minds

Some of the best corrective exercises that can be incorporated into our training (Gray Cook and Colleagues):

Bottom line, WEIGHTLIFTING SHOULD NOT BE SEGMENTALIZED.  Not every single exercise you do has to be multi-joint, but the foundation of movements in your training program should incorporate integrated movement patterns.  According to Gray Cook and Colleagues, some of the best integrated exercises that you can perform are the following:

1. Half Kneeling Chop & Lifts


2. Turkish Get-Up

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3. Two-arm Single Leg Deadlift

4. Cross-body One-arm Single Leg Deadlift

~Open Our Minds