Friday, September 11, 2009

The Body: An Engineering Marvel

While my sons were home from college this summer, the TV was often tuned to the History channel especially to watch Modern Marvels and Engineering Disasters. They are equally fascinated with how buildings, bridges, planes, and cars are built and the flaws that destroy them.

Structure determines how well an object can fulfill its function. For example, a building must have certain design features to survive an earthquake. The same is true for our bodies, but our bodies go one step further. The way we move either strengthens or deteriorates our structure, making function and form more related.

Let’s look at some of the anatomical marvels we take for granted and how aligned use enhances, maintains and strengthens structure.

Marvel — The Feet, Legs and Pelvis
The 26 bones of each foot are arranged in three arches, an elegant design that makes it possible for an area less than one square foot to hold up and move hundreds of pounds.

The foot doesn’t just bear weight, it’s movement (or lack thereof) determines functionality throughout the body. A foot that rolls along the ground with each step translates freedom to the hip and massages the sacro-iliac (SI) joints

Good range of motion in the ankle takes pressure off the knees and facilitates hip flexion and extension. Feet and ankles that rest on the ground in alignment transfer a ground reaction force (think of it like an anti-gravity reflex) through the arch of the pelvis to lift the spine and take pressure off the neck and shoulders.

It’s clear that the body is designed to MOVE and move freely. Many of the disasters that damage us come from inhibiting our full movement, such as the following examples.

Shoes — Heels and stiff soles thwart the foot’s ability to roll and limit foot and ankle range of motion so the next joint up, the knee, is overworked. Flip flops and shoes without backs require tension in the plantar fascia to hold them on and create a flat footed walk, which compresses the hip joint.

Flat ground —The foot’s many joints are designed to walk on rocks, sticks, and bumps. Instead, we almost always walk on flat, paved ground. Many of us have even lost the strength to walk barefoot on sand for any length of time.

Take off your shoes and admire the engineering marvel of your structure. Walk in the grass or on a beach to feel the connection between your toes, feet, ankles, knees, hips, and spine.

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