Episode 40: Katy Says Movement Mailbag
Katy Answers Your Questions
In this episode: leg length discrepancies, diastasis recti limitations and squats and pelvic floor health alternatives for a wheelchair-bound listener.
KATY: Hi! This is Katy Bowman, and it is time for the Katy Says Movement mailbag. This is a new segment where we’re going to be answering your questions. We get so many – how many questions do you think we get, Dani?
DANI: We have hundreds in the queue right now.
KATY: Okay. So we thought because we because we enjoy the life pace that comes with only doing two shows – we’re lazy, we’re essentially lazy, people. And doing 4 shows a month seems like a lot. But 2 shows that we normally do and adding this one mailbag – because we could never get to all of the questions in the show. So we’re just going to start doing these little mini-shows, perfect for taking a mile walk, do you think? Maybe a mile and a half?
DANI: Oh, yeah, sounds good.
DANI: Depending on your pace, that’s good.
KATY: Yeah, like, it’s just a quickie. They’re quickie shows. If you’re listening to this as your first ever Katy Says podcast, know that these are the quickie mailbag shows, and that our full episodes of Katy Says kind of go much more in depth of a single topic, wouldn’t you say?
DANI: I do. I think you’re right, and also, what we’re always going to try and do is include in the show notes of these little mailbag shows links of other things where you can get more in depth explanations if we have it out there. These just aren’t going to be the big, super-deep answers, just for a matter of time.
KATY: All right, so this is the shortie – put on your shoes, or not, and head out walking. And whadda we got?
DANI: Whadda we got? Okay. We do get so many thought-provoking questions, and I just decided to do this randomly.
KATY: Ooh, and I don’t know what these questions are. I think that’s going to be fun.
DANI: Yeah, she doesn’t have – and if you’re listening, just know that we’ll probably eventually get to your question, but this is just a random draw. Let’s go. Question #1, this is from Brian L., and he says, “Hi, Katy and Dani, I love your podcast, and since I started listening to it a few months ago, I started walking barefoot more, and even invested in a pair of zero drop shoes.” Yay, Brian! “I’m taking the transition slowly, but I do have a question about my “short” leg. About nine years ago I went to a chiropractor for back pain. I would notice back pain especially while standing for long periods of time. I’m a teacher, so I need to do this most of the day. After measuring both of my legs, he said that my right leg was shorter. He gave me a cork heel lift, 7mm, which seemed to help a bit. I had another sports therapist re-measure my legs several years later, and he said it was probably a good thing to have the heel lift. So my question: is walking and running barefoot good for me since there seems to be a slight difference in my legs? Should I wear a heel lift in one of my zero drop shoes; I’ve been doing this for years with my other shoes and sneakers. Thanks so much, love the podcast. Brian “short leg” L.”
KATY: Um, I actually get this question quite a bit, so I guess there’s two questions here. The easiest question is, if there was, you know, a robot, a body robot, and it had been built with one leg shorter than the other, then a lot of the rationale for minimal shoes in that it’s like super beneficial doesn’t quite hold up because – I don’t know. Minimal means different characteristics. Right now we’re talking about a heel.
KATY: Right now we’re talking about a heel. A heel-free shoe, that if you put them on sets, because your legs – your one leg is shorter than another, you know, one side of your pelvis lower than the other – then if you’re standing around all of the time, I don’t know if it’s the most beneficial thing for you. That all being said, all of the other components – wide, flexible – are. The problem being that shoes come in a set, so what happens – what happens when you have one side of the body that needs one thing and one side of the body that needs the other thing? So I guess that the easy answer is, you know, put your insert into your minimal shoe – I don’t see why there’s a reason you can’t put something underneath your heel giving you a little bit of a rise because you’re still getting a benefit from all the other minimal characteristics of the shoe that you’re wearing. You still get more foot mobility, you know, all of the joints can articulate better. Also, transitioning exercises – I’ll put that short answer to the side. The other answer is about leg length discrepancy. You can have a leg length discrepancy. Maybe you had an epiphyseal, which is your growth plate, injury as a little kid and it didn’t grow at the same rate as the other leg, so there are those for sure. But a lot of time measuring leg length is like measuring – we would call it functional leg length, where the length of your legs from the foot to wherever you’re measuring it from, right? So all measurements are different, there is not like a standard of leg measure besides looking at them in a cadaver, you know, where you can cut them off and measure the lengths of the bones – that’s not what people are doing. They’re looking at the bones with the skin and the muscle, and as you rotate your bones, whether it’s the lower leg or the upper leg, you might find that the length of your leg can change based on the orientation of the parts. So your alignment can change length within a minute, you know, if you stand and you’re rotating.
DANI: yeah, I was going to ask you – you know, how they do that? How do they measure: is it standing? Is it lying down with a CT scan, or what is –
KATY: Yes. There’s not a standard that everyone uses. That’s the problem with these measures –
DANI: Oh, okay.
KATY: -- is that they’re not as objective as they seem because there’s – every clinician is using a different method, and then how practiced is the clinician in doing it? And has the clinician been measured for their reliability at – you know, a lot of times what happens is like, if you have an image of a bone, you can just put a measuring tape on it and go, okay, here’s a 2-dimensional picture I can make a measure. But you’re not really doing that when you’re looking, you know, at someone as they stand, you know. So it’s just – it’s fraught with potential error. The only reason I’m bringing that up is when people say things about the state of their body, I always just like to remind them: a lot of that is malleable. So you do have a functional – meaning the way that you use your body, the leg length is different – but maybe that’s because you’re rotated in the hip a little bit more on one side so that your arch is flatter on one side than the other, and that’s what’s giving you the discrepancy. In that case, putting a lift underneath it is really just bolstering that mal-rotated, poorly-rotated leg and if you’re doing things that I recommend other than just switching your shoes, then you would want to spend some time not in a bolstered position. So it’s kind of a little bit of – if everything were just – if all you were doing was changing your shoes and you wanted to use your feet more and you weren’t working on any other part, then you can put a lift in a minimal shoe. If you want to be working toward something like decreasing that lift, by improving the length of that leg if it is, indeed, functional, then it is potentially on the menu for you. And then there are those structural anomalies, you know, where something is shorter. But usually people – every time they’ll say, that’s what I have, and then I’ll be like, well, where’s your test for it? And they don’t actually have it, they’re like, no, I have the –
KATY: I have the one that’s not changeable, but they don’t actually have any information that states that. It’s just so much easier, I think, to be like, “I have that.”
DANI: Yeah, it’s more anecdotal, yeah. Okay. Cool. All right, you ready for the next one?
DANI: Okay. This one is from Jenna A.
JENNA: Hi Katy, this is Jenna Ann, and I live here in Utah, and I noticed you don’t have any teachers out here. My question was, I have divectus recti and uh, abdominal hernia. I don’t have any back pain or any other problems, and I’m just wondering how I can get proper posture. I was told I shouldn’t do any planks or run, but I love running and I love doing yoga, and I don’t want to stop doing these things. So if you could help me out, I know your book doesn’t come out until February, if there’s any advice you could give me, I’d appreciate it. Thank you.
KATY: Well, we do have teachers in Utah. Yay!
DANI: I know, yay!
KATY: We do have teachers.
DANI: Really great teachers! Yay!
KATY: Yes, so go to Nutritious Movement and Find a Teacher and you will find some really great teachers there in Utah. So the book is out now, that’s the beauty of waiting so long before we could come to a mailbag is that the product you’ve been waiting so long for is out! So that book is out.
DANI: You win, Jenna, you win.
KATY: Right. We all win all of the time.
KATY: Regarding that question, you know, avoiding doing particular exercises because they make a situation worse is, I think – it’s just kind of like a short-term, like, I don’t have anything else to tell you what to do to fix it. All I can tell you is what to not do if you don’t want to make it worse. That was a lot of negatives. I feel like, here’s what to do to fix it, and don’t do this –
DANI: Can I clarify something? I wasn’t sure I understood what she said. She said she had divectus recti? Is that something different, or did she mean diastasis recti?
KATY: I am assuming she means diastasis recti.
DANI: Okay. Okay. And then she said she had an abdominal hernia. Okay, that makes sense.
DANI: Just wasn’t sure. Thank you.
KATY: Yeah, I mean, if we’re wrong, then we are so wrong, and then don’t listen to anything else that we’re saying. But everyone else that has diastasis recti and has been told not to do particular things, in some cases it’s good to lay off these types of movements that you’re doing. But again – it’s not always the movement, sometimes it’s the way you’re doing it, so you might be doing yoga or you might be doing running, but there’s a particular way in which you’re doing it that has led to this outcome. And so everyone, I think, would like to continue doing everything that they did before they got the thing that doing the thing that they did before created?
KATY: But change is really hard in that space.
KATY: Because you don’t actually want to change; you just don’t want the symptom of your behavior. Painful and challenging, however like I said: running is a category. Yoga is a category. It could be the way that you were executing these things were just with a particular form that was leading to your outcome. Right now it doesn’t seem like you’re having many symptoms of a diastasis recti – like, a lot of other people are like, I have sacral pain, I have digestion issues, I’m completely unstable. It sounds like you’re okay, so maybe other people’s recommendations of what you’re not doing is more for the diagnosis doesn’t get worse, that the diastasis recti doesn’t continue to spread open? But it’s everyone – it’s your life. You get to pick what you want to be doing, but read through Diastasis Recti, which is the book – not, don’t try to peek through and read through your own diastasis recti.
KATY: That’s contra-indicated. That’s totally contra-indicated. Read through the book to see if you get the gist, because again, having particular exercises that you like – modes of exercise, like, I like to dance or I like to run or I like to sprint or I like to rock-climb – a lot of times if you have an ailment, like a musculo-skeletal ailment it has more to do with how you move all day long.
KATY: It’s like the full diet of movement, not the fact that you like dessert every night.
KATY: You know, like a lot of people could eat dessert every night just fine, but it’s about the quality of the dessert, it’s about all the other foods that they’re eating, and so it’s just about that. I don’t think that any one of us has to give up the things that we like, as long as we understand the context. And then perhaps the thing that you like will change once you experience other things.
DANI: True dat. That was good. Okay, this next one is from Margot M.
MARGOT: Hi, Kathy, my name is Margot Murray. The question I have is, I’m in a wheelchair with L-4 and L-5 having been disintegrated basically by an infection. But I’ve been doing the Kegels, but I’ve been reading your thing on the Kegels and doing squats. So: how can you accomplish a squat when you’re in a wheelchair?
KATY: That’s such a good question. Well, I don’t know much about – I’m going to assume that if you’re doing squats already – didn’t she say she was already doing squats?
DANI: No, I think her question was, how can I do them? And I don’t know what extent she’s in the wheelchair. She said I’m in a wheelchair, but we don’t know if it’s –
KATY: Well, that’s a thing. So I’m going to assume that she can get out and down from the wheelchair, that being in the wheelchair is mostly about not having the endurance to support your body for a long period of time outside of it. So that’s the perspective from which I’m answering: if I’m wrong, I apologize, Margot. The Maui squat, the squat that’s on the new pelvic floor DVD, is a squat that is just from the chair level or higher. Because really, most people can’t do that full, you know, hunter-gatherer squat. The full range of motion – not with any weights or any weight rack or anything – just getting all the way down to go to the bathroom and coming back up – that type of squat. Most people aren’t really able to do it without lots of additional support at first, and so there is a video – a YouTube video called Maui squat, and then on the new pelvic floor DVD, there’s just getting up and down out of a chair. So I assume she’s getting up and down out of her wheelchair, so that would be a good time to practice changing your form of how you do it. Like, if you normally use your arms a lot to get out of the chair, right? Or you’re pushing down with your arms, one way to use the lower part of your body more is to try to come up without using your arms, or using your arms less, shifting your weight back and using your heels, pressing with your heels as opposed to letting your weight come forward on your toes and using more of your quads. The purpose of the squat is really to get you to lift and lower yourself using more glute – hamstring – like, the back side of your legs and hips more so than the front. If you are like, there’s no way – for everyone out there, wheelchair or who just get up and down out of a chair every day – if you’re not really able to get up out of a chair, I use a vertical shin as the marker, meaning that your knee and your ankle are stacked vertically. So as you’re coming up and going down, trying to maintain that vertical shin is a good, inexpensive biofeedback tool.
KATY: To see which muscles you’re using. If you can keep the shin vertical, then you know you’re in this phase where you’re driving more from the back of your body. As your knees move forward and go beyond the toes, then you’re using more muscles on the front of the thigh. And it’s not – you don’t – it’s not like you’re using solely one or the other; it’s a blend. You’re trying to get away from being so heavily dominant on the front of the body, which is way stronger in most of us than the back side. If you’re like, I can’t get up out of my chair keeping this vertical shin, then what you’re going to do is you’re going to bolster. You’re going to take a blanket, or a couple pillows, and you’ll stack them underneath your hips so that your hips sit higher than the altitude of the chair seat. So you can use blankets – I mean, sometimes I’ll give people maybe 12” of blanket, so they’re not even really; it’s kind of like the toilet seats that they have for elderly people who aren’t able to sit down, where it’s almost just kind of laying back and the toilet seat is right there –
DANI: Oh, yeah, they’re real raised. Yeah. They’re raised like that because they’re decreasing the distance you have to travel supporting yourself with your knees – the muscles around your knees and your hips. So you have to create that situation. You have to create the angle of your knees and hips from which you can rise and lower using the backside of your body. And it might be, hey, I can travel 4”, but that’s okay, because the movement is being created by the muscles you’re trying to train for better sacral stability and a well rounded, if you will, pelvic floor strength. Like, it’s coming at you from – it’s not just the strength of the muscle between the two bones. Like, the whole system is being strengthened from that. So that would be my recommendation for Margot if she’s listening, to go, okay, I can do these squats. It’s not about the full range of motion; it’s about you accomplishing a range of motion that you can control with your back side.
DANI: Cool. That’s awesome. All right! And that wraps it up – thanks for listening, and thank you all for submitting your questions. We’ll get to them as often as we can in these mailbag podcasts; you never know when you’re going to pop up. It’s going to be like Romper Room, so keep listening, keep asking, keep reading – going to the website and watching as much as you can. A lot of times, you know, the information’s right there for you at NutritiousMovement.com. There are so many resources there.
KATY: Search box! Just go to the search box, type in the word and you are going to be blown away by what’s already there for you. Anyway, thanks everyone for great questions. Keep them coming, and I’ll see you next time. Woo-hoo!
We hope you find the general information on biomechanics, movement, and alignment informative and helpful – but it is not intended to replace medical advice and shouldn’t be used as such.
Maui Squat You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=of1h2v4pKhc
NM Pelvic Floor DVD/Download: https://www.nutritiousmovement.com/product/nutritious-movement-for-a-healthy-pelvis-dvd/