Weekly musings, 9/10/17: body parts as tires

Weekly musings, 9/10/17: body parts as tires
A regular client came in this week, feeling strong and healthy. As we chatted, she shared she had a massage recently with a therapist that hadn’t worked on her in several months. He was impressed by her change in tone and holding patterns in her upper extremity. “From the torso up,” he said, “you are in great shape. Your feet, however, are thin and will eventually wear out, like a tire. You should make sure you always wear shoes so they last a little bit longer.” 

This particular client likes to be barefoot. She walks around her house barefoot, she occasionally trains barefoot. She has no pain in her feet, and, as someone that incorporates a lot of foot training into people’s programs, I can attest to the fact that she has decent intrinsic foot strength. Her ability to interact with the floor continues to improve. “What do you think about that?” she asked. 

“Well,” I said carefully, “I don’t necessarily think that body parts behave like tires. We are constantly changing, getting stronger or weaker, depending on what we ask our bodies to do. I think if you like being barefoot, you should be barefoot, and I think keeping the foot strong is important in order for you to continue being barefoot.”

The thing is, body parts don’t wear out the way we envision. If you never challenge your joints at different angles and don’t work on gaining strength in a variety of positions, habitual patterns can lead to tissues becoming sensitized. This sensitization is often accompanied by physiological changes, but it doesn’t guarantee physiological changes. Just like people can have bone on bone in a hip and have no pain, people can have pain in the hip and have nothing show up in their imaging. Pain is funny, and to assume thin skin will cause foot pain is a risky leap. Our structures are living, breathing, and constantly in a state of change. We are not the same as we were last week, and those changes, if the right stimulus is provided, can lead to more strength and coordination. Thankfully, we are not built like cars and don’t need to upgraded every ten years- we are built to last.