May Articles 2014

Stretching Your Feet

Debilitating foot pain is a problem for many people. But just as stretching the torso can help alleviate back pain, stretching the feet can also mend existing problems and prevent future ones.

The feet carry the entire weight of the human body all day and can get easily strained from overexertion. Persistent sharp pain and cramping in the feet are common problems. Foot pain and problems can be due to any number of causes, and in many cases pain may be eased without medication or doctor visits; however, it is always a good idea to rule out any serious medical issues first with a physician.

Stretching may help relax the feet and alleviate pain at any time, but it is especially important before    heavy aerobic exercise to avoid painful cramps or straining muscles in the feet. Stretches should be performed slowly and deliberately without forceful pulling. The stretch should be held for several seconds, and then relaxed.

A great way to stretch out and loosen up the foot muscles while sitting is to cross one leg over the other and pull the toes carefully back without overextending. Start by resting the left ankle on the right knee. With the left hand, gently flex the left foot by pulling back on the toes. Do not pull too hard, just hard enough to feel the stretch in the arch of the foot. Then point the toes of the left foot as far as you can. Rotate the motion of pointing with pulling back on the toes. This should relax and stretch the muscles on the bottom and the top of the foot. Doing this stretch ten to twenty times should bring relief. Repeat the whole process for the other foot by resting the right ankle on the left knee.

A stretch that focuses on the often injured Achilles tendon involves standing, facing a wall, with your arms out and hands flat against the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping it flat against the floor. Move the other leg forward and lean toward the wall. You should feel a stretch through the back of your leg and your Achilles tendon, but do not push yourself too much. Stop when you feel the stretching sensation and hold for 30 seconds. Ten repetitions may be done for each foot.

Stretching the feet is important for athletes or those performing aerobic exercise, but it can also help anyone with foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours standing and walking. Individuals who tend to their feet by regular stretching every day should be able to minimize foot pain and prevent new problems from arising.

 

Arthritic Foot Care

In our lifetimes we walk 75,000 miles, putting a great deal of stress on the 26 bones and 30 joints in our feet. As we age, our feet lose flexibility and elasticity. Our shock absorbers weaken, and if you add arthritis to that combination, joints become inflamed and distorted. Arthritic foot care becomes imperative at this point.

Start taking better care of your feet by buying better fitting shoes. Hammertoes, neuroma, and bunions form when our shoes fit poorly. Buy shoes with a lower heel and with more room in the shoe. Rheumatoid arthritis will cause you to lose your arch. Buying shoes with arch support will help, as will buying shoes that contour to your foot.

Leave a fingers width between your foot and the shoe. If your finger cannot fit inside your shoe when it is on your foot, it is too tight. Buy rubber soled shoes. The cushioning of the rubber absorbs shock and the flexibility of the rubber helps the ball of the foot, where you push off from as you walk. Look for square or rounded toed shoes giving your toes lots of room to move.

Exercise will also help. Stretching the Achilles tendon, the cord at the back of the heel, will prevent further pain and injury. This will also increase your foots mobility. Lack of mobility will cause significant stress and pain. Massages will also alleviate some pain. Knead the ball of your foot and your toes from top to bottom.

To stretch your Achilles tendon, lean against a wall, with palms flat on the wall. Place one foot forward and one foot back with the heel flat on the floor, then lean forward. Feel the pull in the Achilles tendon and calf. Hold for five seconds and repeat three times. The big toe stretch is another exercise that may alleviate stiffness. Place one thick rubber band around your big toes. Pull the toes toward the other toes on the foot. Hold for five seconds and repeat ten times. Another exercise to try is the toe pull. Place a thick rubber band around the toes of each foot. Spread your toes for five seconds and repeat ten times.

Pain can be alleviated with non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drugs, heat, and ultrasounds. Topical medications with Capsaicin may also help. Thus far, there is no remedy for pain that is one hundred percent effective. Buying shoes that give your feet plenty room with low rubber heels and soles will help. If needed, use heat and anti-inflammatory drugs, and exercise your tendons and toes. Lastly, arthritic foot care should incorporate massages to help your feet with circulation and to relieve the stress locked up in your feet.



Morton's Neuroma

Morton's Neuroma also called Intermetatarsal Neuroma or Plantar Neuroma is a condition that affects the nerves of the feet, usually the area between the third and fourth toe. Neuroma refers to a benign growth that can occur in different parts of the body. Morton's Neuroma strictly affects the feet. This condition causes the tissue around the nerves that lead to the toes to become thick, causing pain in the ball of the foot.

This condition can be caused by injury, pressure or irritation. Normally no lump will be felt, but instead burning pain in the ball of the foot that will often be sensationalized in the toes will be experienced. Numbness and tingling may also occur. With the onset of this condition, a person may feel pain when tight or narrow shoes are worn. As the condition worsens, the pain may persist for days, or even weeks.

Persistent foot pain should always be a concern. The foot should be examined by a podiatrist if pain persists longer than a few days with no relief from changing shoes, or relieving stress from the foot. The earlier the foot is examined and treated, the less chance there will be for needing surgical treatment.

There are some factors that can play a role in the development of Morton's Neuroma. These include wearing ill fitting shoes that cause pressure to the toes, such as high-heels. Also, high impact exercise may contribute to the cause of this condition. Morton’s Neuroma may also develop if the foot sustains an injury. Another cause includes walking abnormally due to bunions or flat feet, which causes excessive pressure and irritates the tissue. At times, people are affected for no apparent reason.

Podiatrists can alleviate the effects of this condition using a treatment plan to help decrease the pain, and heal the foot tissue. Depending upon the severity of the Morton's Neuroma, the treatment plan can vary. For cases that are mild to moderate, treatments may include applying padding to the arch to relieve pressure from the nerve and reduce compression while walking. Ice packs can also help reduce swelling, and the podiatrist may devise a custom orthotic device to support the foot and reduce compression and pressure on the affected nerve. The doctor will probably advise against partaking in activities that cause constant pressure on the affected area, and may provide wider shoes to ease the pressure from the toes. If these treatments do not relieve the symptoms of this condition, the doctor may use injection therapy.

Surgical treatment may be recommended by the podiatrist if all other treatments fail to provide relief. Normally, the podiatric surgeon will decide on either a surgical procedure that involves removal of the affected nerve or will choose surgery to release the nerve. After examination, the surgeon will decide on the best approach to treat the problem.

Recovery varies according to the type of surgical procedure. The patient will also be instructed on the best shoe wear to prevent the return of this condition, along with changes to workout routines, if this was the cause. Preventative measures are important so the condition does not return.



Playing Sports With Foot Injuries

There are many types of foot injuries common among athletes such as plantar fasciitis, overpronation, strains, turf toe, heel spurs, and stress fractures of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is when the thick ligament in the base of the foot becomes swollen, and causes pain. Overpronation is excessive movement of the foot during gait. Pronation would be normal movement of the gait, but when movements become excessive, it leads to a variety of areas becoming painful due to the overpronation. The most common complaint is a burning sensation or inflammation under the arch of the foot, often called strain or arch pain. Heel spurs are growths of the bone in the heel where soft tissues and tendons connect. Turf toe comes from upward bending of the big toe outside of the normal range of motion. It most commonly occurs in athletes that play on artificial surfaces because a shoe grips the surface and forces and athletes weight forward causing the upward bending of the large toe. This causes damage by stretching the ligaments under the toe. Stress fractures could be caused by overuse due to muscle fatigue in the foot, preventing the muscles and ligaments from absorbing the shock and trauma.

Many athletes continue to play with mild foot injuries. You should remember to properly stretch  before any activities, focusing on their calves to prevent injuries and reduce reoccurring pain. It is also common to wear braces to protect the areas that commonly become overstretched and use shoe inserts such as heel pads. It is important to remember to wear proper footwear and replace shoes when needed.

There are many kinds of treatments required to keep the injury from becoming serious. Most commonly an athlete should immediately ice the injury to take down swelling and inflammation. Applying a compression bandage and resting will also reduce pain and stress on the foot. Rest could include using crutches to keep weight off of the injury to allow proper healing for instance. For plantar fasciitis, make sure calves are properly stretched and refrain from hills or speed work. One should try wearing an arch strap to add support. Those with heel spurs should also try arch straps to reduce strain and ice often. The best remedy would be heel pads. Aside from that, one would need a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist. It may require surgery. Those who are suffering from overpronation or turf toe should invest in a quality shoe to reduce motion. There are special insert and braces for the big toe, as well as shoes with firm soles to prevent bending. Stress fractures usually require rest, so an athlete may participate in lower impact activities to allow rest and healing. Most importantly, one should seek medical advice if pain does not go away or recurs frequently.


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