The relationship between the feet and pelvic floor dysfunction is much more intimate than you might have realized. When the pelvis is unstable, the feet have to endure and ultimately do what it takes to balance you in standing and walking. When your feet are unstable, the structures above have to do what it takes to ‘stay’ together as much as possible to prevent a fall. This can translate into tightness in some parts of the body and under-engagement in other parts. Pelvic floor dysfunction is any imbalance and issues related to the pelvis directly or indirectly. I strongly recommend you read my blog on the basics of pelvic floor dysfunction before you begin exploring this blog.
What Are Collapsed Arches?
The arches in your feet are the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue at the bottom of your feet going from the ball of the feet to the heel, and the muscles that help support the arch. When the arch collapses, it results in a condition known as flat feet or collapsed arches.
How Do Collapsed Arches Compromise the Feet?
We take the foot structure for granted until it is compromised. Your feet function as follows:
Your arches are natural shock absorbers, cushioning the impact of each step. When collapsed, the shock-absorbing ability lessens, causing increased stress on the feet and the rest of the body.
Balance and Stability
This one is obvious! When they collapse, it leads to instability and an increased risk of falls.
Foot and Ankle Movement
Collapsed arches limit the range of motion, causing pain and discomfort. This becomes more obvious with sprained ankles and what many experience when the joint does not support the weight above.
What Are The Main Muscles of the Feet?
There 2 main muscle groups in the feet:
These are the small muscles within the foot itself. They help control fine movements, maintain the arch, and stabilize the toes. They are the muscles that are on the feet themselves.
These are the larger muscles that originate in the lower leg and extend into the foot. They provide strength and support for activities such as walking and running.
How Do Collapsed Foot Arches Impact the Legs and Hips?
This is when most of our problems arise! Feet problems don’t stay in the feet so addressing just the feet and not looking at the feet working with the structures above only extends the treatment time and increases the chances of improper treatment.
With collapsed arches, your gait (the way you walk) is affected. This can lead to an unnatural rolling of the feet, straining the calf muscles, knees, and hips which directly impact the stability of the pelvis. The pelvis is the house that the pelvic floor is the floor of so pelvic floor dysfunction becomes inevitable.
Knee and Hip Pain
The improper alignment of the feet due to collapsed arches can put additional stress on the knee and hip joints and how they help support the structures above. The hip joint is the joint connecting the lower extremities to the pelvis and pelvis stability is directly influenced by all structures that are connected to it.
As the arches weaken, imbalance in the leg and back muscles is unavoidable, and the distribution of forces during movement is compromised. This means imbalance, postural instability, and pelvic floor dysfunction. You can’t have a strong pelvic floor when the ‘house’, the pelvis, is unstable.
How Do Collapsed Foot Arches Relate to Pelvic Instability?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles located at the base of the pelvis, responsible for supporting the pelvic organs. The stability of the pelvis is essential for proper alignment of the spine, the functioning of the hip joints, and the overall well-being of the musculoskeletal system. When the arches in the feet collapse, it can lead to poor alignment of the lower limbs, which directly affects the position of the pelvis. An unstable pelvis can strain the pelvic floor muscles, causing dysfunction.
As stated in my blog, “Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Symptoms”, there are many subtle symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction that get missed until they become the ‘stereotypical presentations of pelvic floor dysfunction. The key is to address the issues before they become complex. Collapsed arches are one of those factors that gets missed and ignored when it comes to the treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction.
How to Treat Collapsed Foot Arches and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Find a good podiatrist who is not just into giving orthotics but will assess your posture and provide the right type of orthotics while supporting you with exercises to work on the muscles whose weakness led to the collapsed arch.
Pelvic Floor Therapist
While most pelvic floor therapists are physical therapists, there are other clinicians such as chiropractors, occupational therapists, nurses, and other physicians who are trained in the field of pelvic floor therapy who can help with your pelvic floor. The key is to not just address the pelvic floor but the whole posture, breathing, and functionality in movement to overcome the issue.
Wearing appropriate footwear with proper arch support is essential. Shoes with arch support can help reduce strain on the feet and improve overall body alignment. Flip flops are one of the worst shoes to wear and for those with hyper-mobility, high-arch shoes to support the ankles are the best option.
Functional Exercises and Posture
Not every exercise is the same and going to the gym to strengthen the muscles of the feet and lower extremities is not the right answer either! A strong muscle in isolation does not have any benefit on how you carry yourself. Muscles have to work together to produce postural stability and that only comes in properly performing moves where maintaining the form is the focus. The type of exercises I do with my patients with pelvic floor dysfunction are exercises that babies do. If we can go from helpless infants to running toddlers without any weight, bands, gyms, or trainers, and we do them without any guidance or training, then we are programmed to move that way. Why reinvent the wheels if we don’t have to?
If you think you may have pelvic floor dysfunction, are not happy with the treatment you are receiving or want to find out if you have pelvic floor dysfunction, contact me. We now offer online coaching for those out of state or overseas.