It is becoming widely accepted that postural distortions (poor posture) are a major determinant in the development of musculoskeletal pain. However, there are two entirely different postural models that describe the sequence of events that lead to a poor posture:
- the Mechanical Model and
- the Neurophysiological Model
The Mechanical Model for the Development of Postural Distortions
The mechanical model can be best understood by evaluating the kinetics of motion and the impact that gravity has on the body. Because the body is connected from head to toe, what affects one part of the body affects every other part - a compensatory concept of body mechanics.
Because human beings exist on a planet with gravity, this fundamental principle of physics cannot be overlooked. In every moment, with every movement, the body makes every attempt to balance itself from top to bottom, side to side, and front to back.
How this relates to Rothbarts Foot
If Rothbarts Foot is present, when the body’s weight is over the front part of the foot, the foot must twist inward and fall downward (pronate excessively) in order to attain full foot-to-ground contact (foundational stability).
Rothbarts Foot at Flat Foot in Stance Phase of Gait. Note that the hallux (big toe) and first metatarsal head are elevated off the ground.
Rothbarts Foot as the body's weight is transferred to the forefoot (front part of the foot). The foot is forced to pronate (e.g., gravity driven pronation) in order to bring the hallux and first metatarsal head down to the ground.
As the body's center of gravity is shifted to the inside of the foot, the knees are forced to roll inward and closer together, producing an oblique patellar tracking pattern and genu valgum (knock knees).
The collapsing feet drive the sacroiliac joints forward, inward and downward because the body's center of gravity is anterior to the sacroiliac joints.
This rotation in the sacroiliac joint carries the lumbar spine with it, producing lumbar lordosis with a compensatory thoracic kyphosis, seen visually as "sway-back" and "hunched" shoulders.
When the shoulders protract (hunch), the cervical spine loses its normal curvature, and the head is thrust forward.
The end result is a postural distortional pattern (kyphotic Posture).
The Neuro-Physiological Model for the Development of Postural Distortions – The Foot to Brain Connection
The Neuro-Physiological Model (which I first described in my book, Forever Free From Chronic Pain), can best be understood by elucidating the role that the Pacinian and Meissner corpuscles (touch mechanical receptors) play in the Foot to Brain Connection.
All feet have millions of mechanical receptors dispersed across the bottom of both feet. As one walks these touch receptors are being stimulated. The position and quantity of receptors that are being stimulated is referred to as a Pattern of Stimulation.
An entirely different pattern of stimulation is seen in a ‘normal’ (non-twisting) foot than in a Rothbarts Foot (a foot that twists when standing or walking). That is, a non-distorted pattern of stimulation is seen in a ‘normal’ foot, whereas a distorted pattern of stimulation is seen in a Rothbarts Foot.
This distorted pattern of stimulation has a dramatic and devastating impact on posture: According to the Neuro-Physiological Model, patterns of stimulation coming from the feet send information (signals) to the cerebellum on the current position of the body in space (e.g., its posture). Acting on this information, the cerebellum makes continuous micro adjustments in the posture to maintain an upright posture.
- If these patterns of stimulation are normal, the cerebellum maintains an erect and stable posture.
- If these patterns of stimulation are abnormal (e.g., distorted resulting from a Rothbarts Foot) the cerebellum distorts the posture (e.g., kyphotic posture).
Rothbart BA 2011. Twisting Foot and Musculoskeletal Pain: Root's Biomechanical Model vs Rothbarts Neurophysiological Model. Positive Health, Issue 186, September.