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Why do so many people with pelvic floor issues also have foot issues!?

The human body is a marvel of interconnected systems, where the slightest imbalance in one area can have cascading effects throughout. One such fascinating connection exists between foot mechanics and pelvic floor dysfunction. While seemingly unrelated, the way we stand, walk, and move can significantly impact the health and function of our pelvic floor muscles. In this blog, we'll delve into the intricacies of this relationship, understand how problems in our feet can contribute to pelvic floor issues, and explore strategies to mitigate these concerns.

Understanding Foot Mechanics:

To comprehend the correlation between foot mechanics and pelvic floor dysfunction, let's first grasp the basics of how our feet function. The foot is a complex structure consisting of 26 bones, supported by an intricate network of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These elements work in harmony to provide stability, absorb shock, and propel us forward during movement.

The arches of the foot play a crucial role in weight distribution and shock absorption. There are three primary arches: the medial longitudinal arch (on the inside of the foot), the lateral longitudinal arch (on the outside of the foot), and the transverse arch (across the midfoot). Proper alignment and support of these arches are essential for maintaining optimal foot function.

Common Foot Issues and their Impact:

Several factors can disrupt the biomechanics of the foot, leading to issues such as overpronation (flat feet), supination (high arches), plantar fasciitis, bunions, and more. These conditions can affect the alignment of the entire lower body, altering gait patterns and placing undue stress on various musculoskeletal structures.

Pregnancy can alter foot alignment and support - some women may experience an increase in foot size and dropping of the arch into a flat foot or overpronated alignment. 

When the feet are not adequately supported or aligned, the effects reverberate upward, impacting the kinetic chain. Misalignments in the feet can result in altered posture, muscle imbalances, and compensatory movements elsewhere in the body, including the pelvis.

The Link to Pelvic Floor Dysfunction:

The pelvic floor refers to a group of muscles and connective tissues that form a hammock-like structure at the base of the pelvis. These muscles play a vital role in supporting pelvic organs, maintaining continence, and facilitating sexual function. Dysfunction of the pelvic floor can manifest as pelvic pain, urinary or fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and sexual dysfunction.

The relationship between foot mechanics and pelvic floor dysfunction lies in their shared connection to core stability and alignment. The feet are the foundation of the body, and any instability or misalignment in this foundation can adversely affect the stability of the entire kinetic chain, including the pelvis. For instance, overpronation can lead to internal rotation of the femur and pelvic tilt, altering the alignment of the pelvis and placing strain on the pelvic floor muscles.

There is More:

Did you know that there is more than just alignment that links the foot and pelvis together? The foot and the pelvic floor are neighbors in the brain in the area called the homunculus.  The homunculus is where sensation is mapped and processed in our brain.  Additionally, the nerves that communicate with the muscles of the foot arise from the spinal levels that also communicate with the pelvis.  

Addressing the Issue:

Addressing foot mechanics is a crucial aspect of managing pelvic floor dysfunction comprehensively.  The relationship between foot mechanics and pelvic floor dysfunction underscores the importance of viewing the body as a holistic system. By addressing issues at the foundation—our feet—we can positively influence the function of the entire kinetic chain, including the pelvis. Through comprehensive assessment, targeted interventions, and collaborative care, individuals can find relief from pelvic floor dysfunction and improve their overall quality of life.

Written by Alison Gallup, PT, DPT, OCS

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