A commonly overlooked question in the treatment of hip, back, neck, and/or shoulder pain is, "What is the status of the parts of the body that are contacting the ground?" People often think that if the pain is in the back or shoulder then the issue must be in the back or shoulder respectively. While this can be true a lot of the time, often there is dysfunction occuring in the body elsewhere as well. What commonly happens is that a patient gets their back adjusted for their back pain and they have temporary relief, but the problems and pain reoccur in a few days or weeks. Why is this? There are many different biomechanical systems in the body that affect each other and can relate to one another. One that tends to get overlooked is how gait and the stability/alignment of your lower extremities (legs, ankles, and feet) affect the rest of your body. You are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain and if that happens to be at your base then you can suffer problems in all structures above. Think of a tall building and how any type of dysfunction in the structure at the base could make the whole tower susceptible to falling over if a strong wind came. The same holds true for your own body.
As you walk, your heel strikes the ground first, followed by the pressure from your weight being transfered through the foot, moving from the outside across to the inside at the big toe. There should be specfic angles and motions in the foot and ankle to insure it effectively absorbs the force of your body weight in order to reduce the strain on your knees, hips, and so forth up the kinetic chain in your body. The same goes with the knee, which too has specific motions that help with proper positioning of the hip to reduce stress at that joint. It has been calculated that, on average, the force going through the hip during normal walking is around three times that amount of your body weight. Any type of problem in the feet or knees will change the hips ability to handle stress and could make you prone to injury over time.
As you can see in the image above your body will adapt to the changes in the angles or positions of your feet, knee, or hips to keep your head level. This is how an issue with a dropped arch in the foot can cause the knee to rotate inward, which causes the hip to drop, which makes your shoulder drop on the opposite side, which causes your neck to flex to opposite side to stay level. An issue in your foot can literally cause a headache or neck pain through the biomechanical chain of the body. It is not always this way, but very commonly issues in other parts of your body that may not even hurt can be the true cause of your discomfort. It is always best to fix the true cause of the issue instead of treat the symptoms of discomfort over and over again. Treating primary causes will not only improve the effects of treatment, but also reduce the incidence of pain and discomfort by giving you longer lasting treatment and hopefully completely resolving the issues.
What can you do? Most chiropractors have some sort of knowledge of gait and adjusting the extremities, but not all. Many will want to give you orthotics, which may or may not be necessary. There are certain cases where orthotics may be the only option and others where the orthotics could actually make the problem worse. In many cases balancing the muscles of the lower extremity and effectively adjusting the problematic areas can fully resolve the issue. Balancing the meridians of the muscles involved and making sure your ligaments and joints are getting the proper nutrition for stablity is also vital for long lasting effects. A majority of the muscles involved relate to the adrenal glands or the bladder, so adressing stress control and hydration are also important. Ask your Chiropractor about looking into these issues if you are not getting the results you want. Feel free to Contact Us if you have any questions.
1.) The Gait Guys: http://thegaitguys.tumblr.com/post/34826182315/hip-biomechanics-part-4-of-6-this-diagram
2.) Organ muscle relationships: http://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=43497
3.) Muscle testing reliability: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1847521/
4.) Organ, Muscle, and Bone relationships: http://neurokinesiology.nuxit.net/Bone_Muscle_Organ_Associations/