The foot and neck are interrelated. The foot tightening accompanies tension in the neck. This neck tension leads tension and misbalance throughout the rest of the body, including the feet. The Alexander Technique has a term for this mis-use of the body; “pulling down.” This refers to the neck pulling the head down.
Pulling down leads to tensions throughout the rest of the body that compensate for the straining neck-head relationship. This in turn effects balance. Then the feet tighten to compensate. When this becomes constant, feet are vulnerable to pain and injury.
Are You Over-Compensating?
Many people think that their foot problems are attributed to the weight above the foot passively bearing down on the supporting structures. In some cases it can be better understood by thinking that compensating tension in the foot muscles acts to adversely pull on the supporting structures such as bones, muscles and connective tissues. I say compensating because it doesn’t happen by itself. It is connected to other conditions in the body.
What Happens During Over-Compensation?
What happens during compensation is important. All the various muscles that are involved in this compensating tension have primary functions and secondary functions.
In the foot, primary functions may include flexion and extension to help us move and adapt to terrain.
Their secondary function is to contract to help support postural compensation when we are out of balance.
During the chain reaction of pulling down, the secondary function of assisting postural support kicks in and at the same time interferes with the primary function, causing a stressful tug of war in the feet.
If you are walking or running like this, you are at risk of developing a painful injury. If you already have an injury and are walking like this; you are continually aggravating the injury.
The Alexander Technique and Your Foot Pain
In my Alexander Technique studio, I help you restore an environment in yourself that is free from pulling down. Balance is achieved by returning to ease beginning in the neck and extending out through the body. It has nothing to do with holding yourself up. Holding is tension and tension is not a solution. It is the problem.
In beginning lessons this may feel quite insecure having feet and legs that aren’t tightening to hold you up. This takes time to overcome. It illustrates how confused your sense of balance has become.
Strengthening, stretching and even supporting the feet are all good ideas to help recover from a problem. But they do not stop the behavior of pulling down which is a major undermining cause. Use supports when truly needed but be certain to develop a dependable coordinated balance.