Your feet are probably the most overlooked part of your body
Even a person with a sedentary lifestyle would have walked thousands of kilometers in his/her lifetime. Staggering as it may seem, now imagine how many kilometers must a trekker or a group of persons carrying out hard labor on a daily basis have achieved? If you’re still not convinced, let’s go a level up and imagine how many kilometers would an athlete, runner, or a marathoner would have accomplished! Without a doubt, every level will show a rise in statistics when compared to the average Joe.
Your feet are used every day. The moment you stand up; you are on your feet, goes the expression. Having said that, do you believe that we take care of our feet with the amount of work they put in every single day?
Add to this the fact that your feet consist of 26 bones (just one short of what your hand has), 33 joints, 107 odd ligaments, 19 muscles, and tendons. Put together, your feet make up 25% of the bones in your body. All this set in an intricate pattern that permit you to wriggle your toes! Phew! Awesome stuff. Don’t you think that they deserve more attention than they get?
I am sure several people have soaked their feet in warm water with Epsom Salt (crystals of Magnesium Sulfate) and/or vinegar to experience immediate relief. The main reason this works is because the skin is actually capable of absorbing small amounts of the salts, and vinegar delivers magnesium into your body. Magnesium is a mineral that is absolutely vital for good bone health amongst other minerals.
Note: People with diabetes should refrain from using this therapy too often (although twice a week is a good frequency to follow) as magnesium may trigger a release of insulin.
There are a host of reasons why your feet may pain:
- Arthritis is one of the principal culprits – it leads to inflammation and a build-up of edema in the joints. And as stated earlier there are 33 of them.
- Corns, callouses, bunions, hammer toes, flat feet, in-grown toe nails, sports injuries, prolonged activity, and of course the most horrible selection of footwear. As long as your shoes look good, who cares about the feet – right?
This blog concentrates on activity or injury related issues, and not medical issues. Foot pain caused by diabetes, cancer, psoriasis, and ingrown toe nails needs to be medically addressed. But yes, advice can be provided on footwear.
As far as chronic pains and injuries are concerned, exercise therapy always proposes the following steps:
1) Seek medical attention – if medication is not required and there is no major ligament tear or fracture, use the RICE method, where R = Rest, I = Ice, C = compression and E = elevation.
2) The next stage is mobility – to be able to acquire full mobility either for the body or a specific area, you must ensure that the movement is 100% to the joint’s capability. For example, your shoulder joint is capable of a 360-degree rotation, abduction, adduction, and flexion. So the exercises are to ensure that the joint is enabled to move in its entire range of motion.
3) The next step is strengthening – to ensure that you are completely pain or injury free by developing muscles in the concerned area or to even ensure that there is no recurrence.
The key is to identify which weak muscle or muscles are causing the pain or injury in the first place.
The most common injuries of the foot are:
Plantar Fascia – this is a longish ligament. It stretches from the heel to the toes and supports the arch of your foot. So exercise must be specific to this type of problem.
Ankle Sprain – once again an extremely complex joint capable of carrying out all movements as the shoulder joint, but is restricted partially. The other thing that make this joint more susceptible compared to the shoulder joint is because it is a smaller joint. It’s a hinge joint and not really a ball and socket joint. It is a regular weight bearing joint compared to others. Exercise for strengthening this joint must also include the calf muscles. They are the primary movers of the ankle joint. The outer calf running along your shin bone (on the outside) known as the Gastrocnemius and the inner calf muscle known as the Soleus.
There are several toe exercises to provide relief from chronic pain. Often the first symptom of gout is an intense pain under the big toe. This needs to be first addressed medically.
Achilles Heel injury or tear – this tendon is vital in the foot anatomy. It connects the calf muscles to your feet. Every movement like dancing, walking, running, jumping etc. is governed by the Achilles tendon. When injured, the pain is intense and recovery takes a long time. Injuries are normally caused by prolonged activity be it running, tennis, walking etc. If this tendon ruptures or is damaged, recovery can take months. This is normally the case with all tendons as the blood and thereby the oxygen supply to tendons and ligaments are normally less compared to a muscle.
- Keep your feet clean at all times. Remember to wipe water and moisture from between your toes.
Always give priority to comfortable footwear over style. There is a huge variety in the market which caters to both aspects.
- Wear the correct size always. Both smaller and larger sizes can affect your feet.
- However, your running shoes should always be one size larger than your regular foot size as feet tend to swell quickly when you are running.
- Keep your toenails short or well-trimmed and rounded off.
Consult an exercise therapist for feet and ankle exercises.
About the author: Jeet Chowhan is a fitness trainer and Specialist in Exercise Therapy based in Mumbai, India. He is certified as an instructor from International Sport Science Association in fitness and nutrition, and strengthening of lower back muscles. He offers exercise therapy, gait and posture analysis and correction, advice on supplements, chronic pain management, and much more.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s).