My Journey with the PFs: Pelvic Floor and Plantar Fasciitis
The past year has found me focusing a lot on my pelvic floor. First, to heal from my own pelvic floor (PF) dis-ease (you can read about this here), second, sharing my pelvic floor exercise explorations with the GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® community through virtual workshops, and finally, as I have grappled with the other PF, plantar fasciitis, for the past 8 months.
Both of my PF issues are likely related to the stage of my life. There is evidence that both PFs are common in women of middle age and especially post-menopause. The change in estrogen levels effects a lot of our tissues. Specifically, the loss of estrogen will cause us to lose the fat pads on the soles of our feet causing the bones to be more prominent, which can result in fasciitis. Additionally, weight gain can add stress with a literal increased load and the probability of osteopenia and osteoporosis result in less dense bones.
However, I believe there are many other factors at play as well.
The body is an ecosystem. What happens in one part will affect all the other parts in some way or another. I don’t believe that either of my PFs happened randomly. I have had a mild scoliosis for most of my life: eye dominance, spinal rotations, unlevel hips, imbalance in the rotation of my legs and I’ve had various strains, sprains and mild injuries from my career as a dancer. All of these are factors for various potential ailments.
Through my PF journey I’ve become much more aware of the chronic tensions I hold in my pelvic floor: both a general hypertonicity and an imbalance of tensions right and left. I first began working on unraveling these while studying Nutritious Movement. During that foray I discovered more ease in my hips and learned to align my rib case over my pelvis and carry my weight differently on my legs and feet (more skeletal weight over the heel rather than the arch).
In my Z-Health education and continued studies, I have been practicing skills that strengthen me, enhancing my “performance” in work and life. A powerful and accessible part of the curriculum was the study of the Insular Cortex and specific skills to improve interoception. This course gave me tools to navigate from the more somatic perspective that I use in my own teaching and helped me to further develop what has become my Pelvic Floor Later in Life workshop.
Now, several years later my pelvic floor required that I give it attention when I developed pre-cancerous tissue which required surgical excision. As part of the healing process, I began seeing a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. The time I spent with this practitioner unwinding the tensions I have held in my pelvis for physical and emotional reasons was profound (read about that here). The beautiful part is that I now have much more freedom and ease in my hips and, combined with the Z-Health work, has given me a “groovy” gait, where my arms swing and my hips glide.
So, why did my foot break?
Well, one, there is an emotional component. My emotional/stress bucket is often overflowing from the numerous responsibilities I carry in my life---many beyond my control. Louise Hay states that when we have Plantar Fasciitis, it is from the sense that we are a “shock absorber” for others. The Plantar Fasciitis is an example of my body developing pain as a signal from the brain that something needs to change. But since I am not changing anything and the situation is not changing, I develop a chronic ache in my foot.
Second, I’m exploring the idea that the unwinding of lifelong scoliotic tension patterns with their inherent asymmetry has led to a change in the tensions in my spine, pelvis, hip, leg and foot. If I always held my right pelvic floor tightly and it’s now released, wouldn’t that change the balance above and below? If I’m breathing more into the left side of my lower ribs and diaphragm, doesn’t that affect my left shoulder and my left hip? Currently I’m exploring working on intrinsic foot strengthening, loaded ankle and calf work, calf stretching.
The biggest aha(!) of all of this is the fact that I am just like my clients. I’ve realized that the root cause of my foot pain is most likely that I frequently head out for my morning walks after sitting: to eat breakfast, catching up on emails and reading the news. Add that I am a habitual leg crosser. I suspect the REAL reason I’m having foot pain may very well be because I have nerve compression (lumbar, sacral and leg) from being seated. I live a busy life and although I move throughout my day, and since my time is limited to get everything done, I don’t take the time to prepare my body to go out the door. (Teacher, heal thyself!) Back to the clients: I tell them just stand up and do this “name 2-3 movements that take less than 5 minutes.” Time to take my own advice.