By Sara Cheatham
Nerve Glides mobilize and tension the nerves through a range of motion. Which can be thought of as joint mobility but for your nerves. Nerves are high-threat and thus high-priority for your CNS (central nervous system). This means that if something goes wrong with a nerve you know pretty quickly.
For example: Sciatica pain. The sciatica is a nerve that runs from your low back (lumbar plexus) down the back of your thigh, into your calf, and ends up in branches in your feet. You know when it has been compromised. Often the important nerve gets pinched from excessive compression via heavy squatting, bad lifting, poor rotation, a large gut, high heeled shoes, etc. Most often, the sciatica is pinched by lumbar stenosis. Lumbar stenosis is narrowing of the lumbar nerve canals and too often occurs because of shoe choice. Anything that elevates the heel forces everything up the chain to adjust.
So think about this: your heel is elevated (the point of initial impact of your body and the earth). To propel you forward, the energy transmits up to your knee, but with an elevated heel the knee is already pitched forward. In a barefoot step, the knee starts from extension, then flexes, then goes into full extension. In a heel-raised knee, the knee starts in flexion, goes to semi-extension (in other words: still in flexion) then finishes in flexion. There’s no good chance for the knee to go through its full range of motion. So you’re selling your mobility short here, at the first joint up from the ground. This means you have knee and low back pain…Your shoes are limiting your mobility and this is the reason you have knee and back pain. There is nothing wrong with your knee, it’s over-working because you chose some silly shoes.
We’ll move up to the pelvis from the knee and by-pass the hip for now. What happens in the pelvis with a raised-heel (because of your cute shoes …that were on sale)? The pelvis tilts forward. You see a great example of this in pregnant women and pot-bellied men. But it happens in your body when you wear high, or semi-high heels, Nike Shox (and the like) or even combat or cowboy boots. This means that lower belly you just can’t seem to get rid of with all those crunches is really a result of your shoes. When your pelvis tilts forward, all that is in it has to adjusts too. In other words, save for your skin & fascia, your guts would spill forward out of your low-belly. A graphic description, I know, but it proves a point. Are those shoes really that cute now? May I remind you they give you a belly “pooch,” the one ladies are forever complaining about not being able to get rid of despite countless “core” work. And it goes beyond high heels, to elevated heel tennis shoes.
With the pelvis pitched forward, the low back has an excessive curve in it: lordosis, technically. Meaning an exaggerated curvature of the low back. That curve is what’s putting the pinch on your sciatica, amongst other nerves that live in your low back. Remember, this is all because your heel is elevated up off the ground…even slightly. Our bodies are so smart, that they will adapt to a demand (walking in high heels or running in shox) without us asking. But you can see it comes at a price…and it’s all your fault.
What’s the significance of poor shoe choice, joint mobility, and what can you do to help yourself?
Often smaller branches of the sciatica down in the feet go unused and can even of die off due to the stenosis caused by poor shoe choice and the resulting poor posture and gait. This, in addition to chronic low back pain and decreased training performance. If you don’t mobilize the joints the nerves feed through, (in this case the lumbar & hip joints for the sciatica), we get disuses injuries (see: sprained and twisted ankles, muscular atrophy, weakness and imbalances). The answer to getting the most out of your body for a lifetime: Specific joint mobility and flat-soled shoes regardless of your chosen activity.
Specific joint mobility done with intention will gently mobilize the nerves that feed through the joints and therby significantly enhance your brain/body coordination! This enhanced brain/body mapping will consequently improve your overall training. **There are several resources for joint mobility including the warm-up & cool-down options on my Strength by Sara kettlebell & Z-Health DVD available at http://SaraCheathamsblog.blogspot.com