Your feet are the foundation of your entire body—complex structures consisting of 26 bones, 33 joints and 126 muscles and ligaments. They support your weight, act as a shock absorber, serve as a lever to propel the leg forward and help maintain balance.
Since your entire body is interrelated, any mechanical issues with the feet can lead to chronic musculoskeletal problems in other parts of the body, including your back.
One common foot disorder affecting the back is excessive pronation. Also known as flat feet, this condition causes the foot’s arch to flatten and collapse under the body’s weight. While a normal arch promotes stability and alignment of the entire body, the ability to cushion and absorb forces is greatly reduced when the arch collapses. As a result, increased stress is placed on the joints of the body. This continued stress can cause deformities of the foot over time, such as misaligned bones, hammertoes and bunions, eventually making its way to the legs, knees and lower back.
If you suffer from chronic back pain, visit our practice for an evaluation. Your feet may be the source of your pain. If your back pain is caused by poor mechanics of the feet, orthotics may be an effective treatment option. These custom devices are designed to support and restore the arch of your foot. Restoring the alignment of your foot helps normalize posture and alignment of the lower body. This can reduce unnecessary stress to areas of your back.
Choose the Right Shoes!
The shoes you are wearing may also be contributing to your back pain. Good, proper fitting footwear will provide your feet with the support they need to stabilize your body’s weight and relieve the stress on the rest of your body.
If you suffer from back pain, visit your podiatrist for an evaluation. Your feet may be causing your pain. With proper treatment, you can achieve proper foot biomechanics and eliminate your back pain once and for all.
Following an ankle injury or ankle surgery, you’ll inevitably lose some strength and range of motion from being immobilized for an extended period of time. A weak ankle can hinder normal mobility, and even lead to another injury. So what can you do to strengthen your ankle and get back to your old self again?
Strengthening Your Ankle
Your ankle or leg may feel stiff, especially if your treatment required wearing a cast or a walking boot. Stiffness and instability are common symptoms following an ankle injury that will need to be addressed in order to get you back to your normal range of motion and activity level.
Your podiatrist may recommend post-injury physical therapy or home exercises that will help you strengthen weak muscles surrounding the ankle joint and restore mobility to lower your risk of reinjury. These include range of motion exercises for the injured ankle, which help loosen stiff ankles, and stretching exercises for the calf muscles, which help decrease your risk of hurting your ankle again. As with all exercises, progress slowly and discontinue if painful. Pain is most certainly not gain when it comes to physical therapy!
Choosing the Right Shoes
The shoes you wear will also play an important role in protecting your injured ankle and restoring your mobility. Supportive shoes will provide more comfort, better balance and help stabilize the weak ankle to prevent re-injury. Stay off high heels or flats and flip flops without support until your ankle is completely mended.
Proper care and rehabilitation following an ankle injury is critical to ensure your ankle fully heals. Always consult your podiatrist if ankle pain or stiffness persists or worsens and before starting any new exercise program.
Chronic ankle instability is a condition characterized by a recurring "giving way" of the outer side of the ankle. It most often develops following an ankle sprain. When the stretched or torn ligaments do not heal properly or completely, ankle instability is often the result.
If you have chronic ankle instability, you may find it difficult to walk on uneven surfaces. Other symptoms include a repeated turning of the ankle during physical activity, tenderness and persistent discomfort and swelling.
How Can I Treat My Ankle Instability?
Treatment for an unstable ankle will depend on the degree of instability. Bracing, medication and physical therapy are all conservative treatment options that may help strengthen your weakened ankle. Often patients with ankle instability can be treated without surgery by strengthening the muscles that control the ankle joint, avoiding or limiting high impact activities and using a supportive brace to decrease the risk of recurrent ankle sprains.
In severe cases, or when conservative treatments aren’t successful, your podiatrist may recommend surgery, which involves repair or reconstruction of the damaged ligaments.
If your ankle feels unstable or if you have had recurring ankle sprains, visit your podiatrist for an evaluation. Left untreated, chronic ankle instability leads to activity restrictions, tendon complications, arthritis and continued instability. Your podiatrist can provide a recommended treatment plan based on the severity of your instability, so that you can get back to the activities you enjoy!
No matter what sport you play, the type of shoe you wear while playing your favorite game is one of your most important pieces of equipment. Choosing the most appropriate, supportive athletic shoes for your specific sport and foot structure can make a huge difference in keeping your feet healthy and comfortable while improving your performance. Serious back, knee, hip and heel pain, Achilles tendonitis, fractures and painful blisters are some of the common conditions faced by athletes wearing the wrong footwear.
From soccer and tennis to golf and basketball, the structure of your foot and any abnormalities should be considered when selecting a proper shoe for your activity. Look for a shoe that combines flexibility, support and cushioning to absorb impact and lessen shock on the feet. Before selecting an athletic shoe, it is always recommended to consult your podiatrist for a professional evaluation of your foot type, any underlying deformities and helpful shoe buying tips.
Types of Shoes
There are unique variations in the way different athletic shoes support your feet. This means that it’s not good to play football in the same shoes you use for jogging. Your feet require different support for different activities, and not all shoes are equal to every task.
A good sports shoe should be fitted to support the foot in the position that is most natural to the movement required. For instance, a running shoe is designed to accommodate high-impact activity, while a shoe built for tennis or basketball should provide a combination of flexibility and sideways support.
Out with the Old
Like most pieces of equipment you use on the field, your athletic shoes will wear out after a period of time, and an old, worn out shoe is a common cause of sport-related injuries. If you run, track your mileage to determine when your shoes have endured too much activity. When you notice obvious wearing of the soles or you sense a lack of cushioning from the shoes, it may be time to buy a new pair.
Remember, the best pair of athletic footwear doesn’t have to be expensive to support the needs of your feet and body during a workout. There are numerous shoes available that will fit both your needs and your budget. When your feet are protected by the right footwear, you can reduce your likelihood of injury. Visit our office for an evaluation and shoe recommendations.
The feet bear a lot of stress from day to day. That’s why podiatrists recommend stretching as a great way to revitalize and strengthen the feet. Simple stretches can be performed at home as a part of your morning routine, or even at work while you’re sitting at your desk. Improving your flexibility through stretching can help prevent foot injuries, increase your mobility, improve performance and posture, and relieve stress.
When Should I Stretch?
It is especially important to stretch properly before starting any exercise routine. When muscles are warmed up prior to a workout, the strain on muscles, tendons and joints can be reduced and injuries avoided.
Simple stretches include flexing your feet repeatedly while pointing your toes to help build strength in the foot muscles or rotating your foot from side to side while you point your toes. Massaging the muscles in your feet with your hands is another helpful way to promote circulation and relaxation.
Always allow at least 5-10 minutes to fully stretch your muscles, which should include a stretch/hold/relax pattern, without any pulling or bouncing. Before beginning any new type of stretch, visit your podiatrist first to ensure it will be safe for your particular foot pain.
What Kind of Stretches Should I Do?
Here are just a few helpful stretches you can do at home to help lessen foot pain and improve foot health:
- Stretch for Calf Muscles: Excessive tightness of the calf muscle can cause many foot problems. To stretch this muscle, face a wall from approximately 2-3 feet away. Lean into the wall, keeping heels on the floor and knees extended. Hold for 10 seconds as the calf muscle stretches, then relax. Do not bounce. Repeat five times.
- Stretch for Hamstring: Put your foot with knee straight on a chair or table. Keep the other leg on the floor straight with knee locked. Lower your head toward the knee on the chair or table until the muscles are tight. Hold to a count of 10 then relax. Repeat five times, and then switch to the other leg.
- Stretch for Plantar Fascia: This stretch for heel pain can be performed in the seated position. Cross your affected foot over the knee of your other leg. Grasp the toes of your painful foot and slowly pull them toward you. The fascia should feel like a tight band along the bottom of your foot when stretched. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Repeat it 20 times for each foot. This exercise is most effective when you first wake up, before standing or walking.
Stretching in combination with supportive footwear will help you keep your feet healthy and fit. Whether you’re gearing up to train for a marathon, or simply looking to revitalize your feet after a long day at work, talk to your podiatrist at about the best foot stretches for your individual needs.
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