Springs, Shock Absorbers and Joint Health

Your car has springs and shock absorbers. Trucks and motorcycles have them. They make the ride much better. The human body also has built-in springs and shock absorbers if we learn to use them. Weight-bearing types include foot arches, knees, hips, and lower back. With the right mindset, we’ll use them to advantage.

To begin, picture a person walking with locked knees. Every step insults the rigid knees, and a shock impact travels upward to the head. There’s no cushioning. Feet slam insensitively onto the concrete. A doctor has told him/her that the knee cartilage is thin, and surgery may be needed. Long walks are not an option because it’s painful.

Now picture a flat-footed person walking. (Flat-footedness is defined by collapsed foot arches.) The whole body topples side-to-side as the upper body compensates. Walking is tiring and painful.

How could these problems be prevented? The answer lies in re-imagining the joints as springs and shock absorbers.

Start with the feet. Feet are designed to distribute weight to the ground, and arches facilitate that work. As body weight transfers to a foot, the long arches bend downward – just like the springs in your car. If we begin to think of the foot arches like springs, the walk softens. You can feel weight move back-to-front through the foot. The foot is now working according to design. Other people may notice that you walk quietly. Foot awareness develops. Instead of pain, the feet feel good. Walking is a pleasure.

Knees are excellent shock absorbers because large muscles cross them. All that’s needed is a mindset that envisions knees as shock absorbers - plus a little practice. Knees are not designed to be locked back. If yours are, unlock them. Keep the knees slightly bent most of the time.

Hips absorb rotational and weight-bearing impacts. Again, soften them, and allow them to work.

The curve in the lower back is another spring/shock absorber. Note that the top of the lower back curve starts at diaphragm level. That’s anatomically meaningful. Deep abdominal muscles connect the diaphragm to the legs. For best capability, the lower back curve should be shallow, but not eradicated. Eradication destroys the spring function.

When integrated, all the above springs work in unison. That’s the ideal. A step with the foot uses all the springs/shocks. The foot arch flexes; the knees bend, the hips soften, and the low back accommodates.

Taking a fraction of the impact at each shock absorber leads to a graceful easy walk. Impacts are minimal because the job is distributed. Paratroopers employ the distribution principle. They don’t stiffen their legs at impact. They soften the legs and distribute the impact by falling.

Properly used joints last a lifetime. It starts with an internal image that the joints are springs and shock absorbers. It’s more than a visual. They are. The brain’s perception matters.


Jack Menear