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FOOT AND ANKLE PAIN
Some Foot Facts
Before we get into the details of foot and ankle pain, let’s take a look at our feet in general. Our feet bear the brunt of our weight with each step we take. Most of the time, we take them for granted and often they suffer abuse with much pounding, pressure and at times, ill-fitting shoes.
Normally, our feet perform without problems; until they give out one day and we come to a painful realization - our feet and ankles have “broken down”.
Let’s look at some interesting facts about feet and ankles:
The foot and ankle form a strong, mechanical structure that contains 26 bones, 33 joints (20 have cartilage), and more than 20 muscles, 120 tendons and ligaments. Impressive!
Each foot has more than 7000 nerve endings constantly sending signals through your body and to your brain. Your foot and ankle are huge element in your ability to balance or not.
According to The American Podiatric Medical Association, an average person takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps each day. In a lifetime, this adds up to around 115,000 miles - enough to walk around the circumference of the globe 4 times!
When they say “Take the load off”, it is literally the case. In an average day of walking, the force exerted on your feet can total to hundreds of tons. This is equivalent to an average of a loaded cement truck.
Women are 4 times more likely to have foot problems than men are, mostly due to footwear. Consider this - A 2½-inch high heel can increase the load on the forefoot by 75%. How about those 5 inch stilettos?
It is said that 75% of Americans will experience foot and ankle problems at some point in their lives. Not really surprising given the mileage they get in our lifetime.
It is also said that your general health is manifested in the feet. Therefore conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, nerve and circulatory disorders often times show their initial symptoms in the feet.
What are the Symptoms and Causes of Foot and Ankle Pain?
Painful feet and ankles can be nuisance. However, prolonged or intense discomfort can be a sign of more serious conditions or injury that need to be given attention.
General symptoms of foot or ankle injury are:
Discomfort around the joints, toes or heel
Difficulty in walking, standing or sitting (squatting or kneeling)
Pain to both the foot and the ankle can be caused by many factors:
Engaging in sports without adequate preparation
Walking or running on uneven surfaces without preparation
Prolonged standing or sitting where the ankle does not get movement
Poor fitting shoes
Repetitive motions due to work or sports
Common Conditions that Affect the Foot and Ankle
Arthritis is the inflammation and stiffness of joints which can affect different areas of the feet. Common forms are:
Rheumatoid arthritis which affects many joints of the feet
Gout is a painful form of arthritis commonly affecting the big toe. Gout is characterized by severe inflammation that causes joints to become red, hot, swollen and painful. Left untreated, it can cause permanent damage and lead to osteoarthritis
Reactive arthritis usually affects the ankle and the area around the heels.
Arthritis not only causes pain in the joints themselves but may also cause inflammation and discomfort in the tendons and other tissues around the feet. Remember that anything affecting your feet will later also affect the rest of your body due to distorted walking patterns (Gait).
Achilles Tendon Injury or Rupture
This happens when the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone is overstretched, torn or ruptured. Common symptoms are pain above the heel along the back of the foot, tenderness, bruising and stiffness.
The pain can often be relieved with rest, ice packs and painkillers at home, although it may take several months to resolve completely.
Sprains and Strains
These are common injuries resulting when you suddenly change directions or speed when walking or running, fall and land awkwardly, or collide with an object or person.
Sprains are due to having ligaments stretched, twisted or torn. Strains on the other hand are injuries to the muscles or tendons.
Common symptoms are swelling, bruising and tenderness. Normally, when you have sprained or strained yourself, you are also be unable to put weight on your foot.
This is a painful condition that affects the tough band of fascia tissue that runs under the sole of the foot when the fascia tissue and the plantar tendon is strained. The Plantar Tendon runs from the heel to the forefoot.
Plantar Fasciitis normally affects people who are in their 40’s and older. A general theme for these people is a lack of flexibility in the calf and shin which limits the movement of the foot and therefore loads it more in various positions.
Being overweight or on your feet for long periods on flat hard surfaces or any prolonged sedentary lifestyle are the major contributors to plantar fasciitis. Weight is considerably important, but the years of long periods on flat hard surfaces in a fixed position can be even worse.
Plantar Fasciitis can also be due to overuse - running too long without resting or jumping on the heel too much, as examples. Thus marathon runners and basketball players run a high risk of contracting this condition.
It is commonly found in these overuse instances that the overuse situation was coupled with a lack of tissue flexibility and joint mobility, forcing more load onto the foot.
Rest, regular stretching exercises, applying ice packs and if necessary, taking painkillers, help in alleviating the pain. Wearing well-fitting shoes with good support also helps diminish pain.
Hammertoe and Claw Toe
People develop these two conditions for many reasons. However, in general, hammer or claw toe is mainly caused by confining footwear.
Ideally, shoes should provide some wiggle space for the toes. Footwear that is too confining often provides too narrow a space for toes to fit comfortably. Often, the toes slide or are jammed to the front of the shoe, restricting them. This forces toes to bend uncomfortably and over time, leads to a hammertoe or claw toe.
In early stages, hammer or claw toe can be helped by wearing proper footwear and by doing certain toe stretches. This condition is muscular in nature and can be reversed.
These are bony swellings at the base of the big toe. This causes the big toe to point towards the other toes and the big toe joint sticks out, forming a bony lump. Bunions make walking difficult and left untreated, can lead to arthritis.
Bunions can be treated surgically and this may be a good choice for extreme cases. If this option is not for you, wide shoes or orthotics may suffice. Walking will become progressively worse as the big toe position continues to distort over time.
A fracture or broken bone in your foot tends to be due to sudden trauma, but stress fractures happen gradually over time due to activities such as running or osteoporosis. Obesity would also be a contributing factor for stress fractures.
Symptoms include pain, swelling and bruising that extends away from the fracture.
Another type, open-fractures, are commonly called compound-fractures where the broken bone punctures the skin.
Treatment and Prevention
Foot and ankle injuries and conditions cause tightness and decreased mobility in the entire foot-ankle-shin-calf complex. Tightness in the lower-leg-complex causes subtle changes in how you stand and all of your movements.
This in turn, affects how ground-forces are transferred through the foot via those 7000 nerve endings mentioned earlier. The ankle and hips are the body’s first two mobility joints and they are affected by what happens to the other.
The ground forces that are affected by a tight ankle will cause the hips to have to work harder. This then leads to the common issue of lower-back pain because as the hips tighten, the lower back’s stability is turned into mobility.
In the future, we will discuss how the body’s joints all follow an alternating pattern of mobility, then stability from ankle to neck and wrist.
Stretches and exercises that target both the muscles and the joints to help regain full flexibility and mobility in the foot, ankle, calf and shin, as well as toes are absolutely necessary to prevent and treat foot problems.
Stretches give muscles flexibility and joints mobility. Tight muscles make you more prone to movement compensation, injury, re-injury and pain because joints are restricted.
Strength exercises address weakness in the foot, calf and shin muscles. This is vital in pain treatment for virtually any foot problem. Muscles need to be strengthened so they are able to support the foot and control how the foot and entire body moves.
Another element to this corrective-program is neuromuscular reprogramming so that the brain learns to control the newly improved flexible and strong tissue. We’ll discuss this more in the future.
New Found Strength gives special focus to pain free training and professional stretching. I am a Corrective Exercise (CEx) and Soft Tissue Specialist, so as to teach and assist you in understanding your own body and its unseen compensations due to injuries.
I help you recover from your foot injury by designing a stretching and exercise regimen that helps prevent pain, regain flexibility and strength, and more importantly, avoid re-injury.
What are You Waiting For?
If you have had recent foot or ankle injury or you desire to improve strength and flexibility or balance to avoid injuries, we can help. CALL NOW - 951-901-8348 or click here for a free consultation
Tags: foot pain, ankle pain, corrective exercise specialist, pain-free exercise, joint mobility, flexibility, fitness, balance