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How Your Feet Reveal Why You’re in Pain

If you experience chronic pain your foot alignment can likely provide clues about the source of discomfort and how you can heal.

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Pain and Anatomy Advisor

In order to understand that the body is all connected and that all of its systems and subsystems are interrelated and interdependent, one of the best places to focus your attention is your feet. How your feet are positioned whether you’re standing still or moving is a clear indicator of how balanced, or unbalanced, your body is. And if you suffer from chronic pain, the feet are a great place to start figuring out why.

The human body is designed so that both feet point straight ahead after the development cycle, which is the age when toddlers are able to stand, run, and play on their own two feet without assistance (it varies among children). Furthermore, at that stage, when we walk, the heel strikes the ground first, then the ball of the foot, then the toe. When that foot-striking action occurs in a balanced fashion with both feet pointed straight ahead, the body is symmetrical.

There are four load-bearing joints in our bodies—ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders. These joints have two functions: first, they bear the body’s weight, and second, when we’re moving, they absorb the shock of that movement. In order for those joints to do that effectively, they must have a full range of motion, and they do if that body is symmetrical. But joints do what muscles tell them to do, and when muscles become imbalanced through specific actions or inaction, the joints become compromised and lose that full range of motion. When one joint is compromised, all are affected because all are interrelated. If the ankle loses its full range, that will impact the knee, hip, and shoulder.

Regarding pain, it’s logical to focus on where the body hurts; if your shoulder hurts, it makes sense to look at your shoulder to figure out why. But that is true only if you’ve just had an accident, that is, you just fell and landed on your shoulder. If we’re dealing with a chronic condition, such as a herniated disc or torn cartilage or rotator cuff, then the reason for that pain lies elsewhere. That’s why I often look first at the feet for clues. Repositioning the feet changes the position of the load-bearing joints which subsequently impacts the place of pain.

So, an example. If you are suffering from chronic back pain, do this experiment real quick. Stand up, close your eyes, and walk in place. Don’t march; just pick your feet up and walk normally. After a few steps, stop and look down. You will likely notice that your feet are not pointing straight ahead at 12 o’clock. One, or both, will be pointing off in a different direction. Now, with your feet in that position, close your eyes again, and get in touch with the weight bearing down on your feet. You’ll probably notice that one foot is carrying more weight than the other, and that the weight rests in different places. For instance, your right foot may feel the majority of the weight on your heel while your left foot feels it along the outside of your foot. That means your body is out of balance. And if it’s out of balance, pain is inevitable.

Now, a quick test on the back pain. Make sure your feet are parallel and point them straight ahead. They have been compromised for so long that you’ll probably have to look down to make sure that they’re actually pointing straight. It will feel awkward. Then close your eyes and notice how that stance impacts your lower back. Next, go pigeon-toed, pointing your toes in so that they are almost touching, and close your eyes again and register how that impacts your symptoms. If each of these different positions has impacted how your back feels, that is an indication that the cause of your back pain lies not in your back. The solution to that pain is realigning your body to symmetrical balance and not specifically targeting just the back.

We are brilliantly designed. And we’re incredibly adaptable. If you are off balance, your body will adjust to compensate, and that will cause some pain somewhere. That pain is your body telling you that you’re off balance. Once you return your body to balance, your discomfort will disappear. And that’s just the beginning of all the good things that will happen to your well-being.

Known as the Father of Postural Therapy, Pete Egoscue has helped relieve thousands of people from their chronic pain, including many of the world’s leading athletes. For more information on Pete and any of his 25 clinics worldwide, go to



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