Your second heart.

No, I’m not talking about your girlfriend or significant other. I’m talking about the Gastro soleal pump.

You may have noticed that your feet and calves are the lowest portion of your body. The blood that gets pumped down there, by the heart, needs to come back up to the heart, against the pull of gravity. The gastro soleal pump is the design feature that makes this process more efficient. You might claim that handstands could also solve this issue, but I think that approach is complicating things by taking an upside down view of the world.

The gastro soleal pump. Henceforth to be called “GSP” by me, in this blog post- is a network of veins and small venous capillaries that run through the calf muscles- the Gastrocnemius and Soleus. Like most parts of the body, these muscles have multiple functions, in addition to simply letting you stand or walk. That is efficient design and seen in all natural systems. Human designed systems that follow this principle will usually outperform other examples that assign just a single job to a particular object. But I digress.

Both these muscles, like all tissues in the body are encased in a covering of connective tissue, called fascia. That encasement, helps in force transmission, redirection of force, conservation of energy and efficient compression of structures within the covering. Everytime these muscles contract, they force the blood pooled within them upwards, back towards the heart.

This means, that back pressure doesn’t develop in the veins of the lower limb. This in turn means

  • Less effort for the heart to push against pooled blood in the legs, because the legs themselves are working to get the de oxygenated blood moving back to the heart. Teamwork
  • Less back pressure in the veins

What are the implications of reduced back pressure for you?

  • Less risk of varicose veins
  • Less swelling of the feet towards the end of the day
  • Less cramps at night

How are you going to achieve a optimally functioning GSP?

-walking uphill, walking downhill
-walking on uneven surfaces
-walking on soft and unstable surfaces
-balance work
-walking barefoot
-squatting with full ankle dorsiflexion
-floor living
-loading the upper body in an offset pattern
-stretching(downward dog?)
-myofascial manipulation- foam rolling
-hydration and electrolyte sufficiency to prevent cramps and unnecessary increase in muscle tone
-reduced sitting in chairs
-frequent movement
-frequent interruption of sitting in chairs

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