Have you ever thought about how effortlessly you walk across a room? Did you know that your body has to shift its center of gravity to one side while briefly balancing on one leg as it swings the other leg? This lateral shift happens with a combination of the shoulders and the hips. Two great examples of these lateral shifts can be found in John Wayne’s tight-hipped swagger of laterally shifting his shoulders when entering a gunfight and in Marilyn Monroe’s trademark loosely swaying of her hips when sashaying across the red carpet.
According to stories that have been passed down about Marilyn Monroe’s extreme lateral sway of the hips, she apparently cut 1″ from one heel to make that hip side shift even more laterally. Then once that hip loosened, she switched the shorter heel to the other side … apparently alternating the short heel until she “developed the mobility for her larger-than-life hip shift“.
I’ve always wondered why my low back hurts after wearing high heels. As I read various articles on the subject and study orthopedic massage techniques, I now understand the compensations that my body has to go through in order to balance my structure. Take for example, when standing barefoot against a wall your foot is at a 90° angle to your leg. As soon as you insert a wedge, like a 4″ heel, your brain and related proprioceptors must adjust not only the joints of the ankles, knees, hips, spine, and neck but also the related muscles and fascia in order to maintain a balanced and erect posture. The pelvis tilts forward creating a deeper curve in the low back potentially harming the internal organs, and the balls of the feet take on additional pressure.
Generally while standing barefoot, there’s a 60/40 split between the pressure on the ball of the foot and the heel; however, as the wedge under the heel increases, that ratio can skyrocket to a 90/10 split! Perhaps you’ve seen pictures or videos of Lady Gaga stumbling in her heel-less shoes. With this type of compensation, the foot can no longer naturally roll through the heel-to-toe motion when walking. Excessive wear of this type of shoe reverberates throughout the body creating chronic health issues.
Do you have Barbie feet? You know the kind … when your toes remain pointed after removing your shoes. When women consistently wear high heeled shoes, the muscles in the lower legs tighten which shortens the Achilles tendon, forming bunions and heel spurs, and curling the toes up and under into what is referred to as claw toes. Orthopaedic surgeons advertise themselves as the go-to people who treat symptoms like Achilles Tendonitis. They perform surgery that may include shaving bone spurs, repairing damaged tissue, and transferring tendons from other areas of the body into the foot. During surgery when soft tissue is cut, scar tissue naturally begins to form which restricts range of motion. After surgery, the foot is immobilized in a walking boot for 4-6 weeks. Most likely, the heel height of the walking boot will differ from the height of your shoes. Can you imagine the imbalances that will be created during this period of time that reverberate from the walking boot up into the knees, hips, shoulders, and neck? Before long, you may begin to develop the hip-swaying Marilyn Monroe walk. Yikes! Surgery sounds like the last resort to treat this condition.
With my orthopedic massage training and experience, I have successfully helped clients who suffer from various types of muscular pain and limited range of motion. After a thorough discussion with the client about their level of discomfort and lifestyle habits, I begin each session by checking the hips and leg length for balance. If needed, I apply gentle Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques (MAT) that begins to bring to the body back into balance. The session includes not only various massage therapy and stretching techniques, but also education to help clients break improper habits and introduce healthier postural awareness. I work well with clients who are open to receiving the information and excited to implement these changes into their lifestyle.
If you find yourself with aching Marilyn Monroe hips and rubbing your Barbie feet at the end of the day, perhaps it’s time to give me a call to discuss if we are a good fit to work together to collectively restore balance to your body.
Denise Fahrion is a passionate orthopedic massage therapist in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh serving Ross, McCandless, Wexford, Cranberry, Sewickley, Hampton, and Fox Chapel. She personally works toward and shares with her clients ways to become “Focused. Grounded. Balanced.” by taking a holistic approach to healing the body naturally.