Feet: There is rarely any gray area with them.
Rarely do you hear someone say, "They don't smell too bad." Or, "They aren't that ugly." Or, "My toenail polish is chipping off, but it looks ok."
No, with feet, it's black and white. You love them or hate them. The smell good or bad. They're pretty or ugly.
While I understand "feet" probably isn't the most popular topic I could write about, I also understand that many of you are dealing with foot symptoms. Your feet might hurt, maybe you have corns or callouses, or perhaps you have bunions. What I also know is that feet give us an incredible glimpse at what is happening throughout the rest of the body.
Want to see for yourself? Stand up, right now. March up and down a few times, and let your feet hit wherever they want to hit. Now, take a look down. Do your feet point straight ahead? I mean really straight ahead?
I didn't think so. I'm guessing they point out to the side, and they most likely aren't pointing our equally. If you were standing on the face of a clock, maybe your left foot is pointed at 10:00 while your right foot is at 2:00. Or, if you're like the majority of clients we see in our clinics, it's more like 11:00 and 2:00, or 10:00 and 1:00. There is something off about your foot direction.
What we at Egoscue know is that your body has compensated and adapted to its surroundings. And, we know that it's reacting perfectly. Your body is counteracting and counterbalancing structural dysfunctions that are found away from where the actual symptom is. For example, you have noticed you have one foot that points out more than the other and one shoulder that is rounded more forward than its partner on the opposite side. Maybe you've noticed that the waistline on your shorts always seems crooked.
It's crucial we remember that the body is an action-reaction organism. If you touch a hot burner, it hurts, and your body responds accordingly by quickly pulling your hand away. The same is true with other types of bodily pain. In this example, foot pain, your body has adapted perfectly. Your foot pain, or callous or corn or bunion, is nothing more than a signal. Interpret that signal...and you're well on your way to being symptom free. Ignore it...and you're on your way to a cascade of symptoms, most likely elsewhere in your body.
The direction in which your feet point tells us all we need to know about where the therapy focus needs to be if we want to get to the root cause of your foot symptoms. Your feet pointing anywhere but dead ahead alerts us, the Egoscue therapist, that your hips aren't functioning properly. The hips are the joints in charge of getting you from Point A to Point B, not your feet. They hips are the catalyst for all movement. Your feet are simply the passengers. They'll do what the hips tell them to do.
If you have bunions, corns or callouses, walk around your house barefoot and notice that those pressure points are the exact same places where you make the most contact with the floor. And, notice that you weight-bear more on the side where the bunion, corn, or callous is or where your bunion, corn, or callous is worse. If we do nothing more than balance out your hips, your feet will, quite literally, fall in line, and those pesky foot symptoms will be a thing of the past!
So let's get going! Let's work to reengage your hips while simultaneously returning function to the hip, knee, and ankle. Do the following three exercises daily, and in order, and begin to feel what life is like without foot symptoms!
SUPINE FOOT CIRCLES & POINT FLEXES
1. Lie on your back with one leg extended and the other leg bent and pulled up toward your chest
2. Clasp your hands behind the bent knee
3. Keep the foot on the floor pointed straight up toward the ceiling and your thigh muscles relaxed
4. Circle the lifted foot one way for the indicated number or repetitions, then reverse direction for the same number of reps
• Make sure the knee stays absolutely still with movement coming from the ankle and not the knee
5. For the point/flexes, bring the toes back toward the shin to flex, then reverse the direction to point the foot forward for the indicated number of reps
6. Switch legs and repeat
STATIC EXTENSION POSITION
1. Start down on the floor on your hands and knees with your major joints aligned (i.e. shoulders directly above elbows and wrists, hips directly above knees).
• Hands should be placed shoulder width apart, palms flat with fingers pointed straight ahead.
• Arms must remain straight, elbows locked.
2. Walk your hands 4-6 inches forward and then move your upper body forward so that your shoulders are again above your wrist but now your hips are forward of your knees 4-6 inches.
3. Relax your low back allowing it to arch with the movement coming from the tilt of your pelvis.
4. Collapse your shoulder blades together and drop your head down.
• Your shoulders should be directly above your wrist.
• If your low back begins to hurt, back your hips up toward your knees; this will make the exercise a bit easier.
5. Hold as directed
SITTING KNEE PILLOW SQUEEZES
1. Sit in the middle of a chair with your feet pointed straight ahead, 4-6 inches apart.
2. Place a pillow between your knees.
3. Roll your hips forward to place an arch in your low back and hold this position throughout the e-cise.
4. Squeeze and release the pillow with your knees.
5. Repeat as directed
QUESTION: Why do you believe that you have foot pain?
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This article originally appeared on Sonima.com
Fascia are connective tissue, and they are found throughout our bodies at various subcutaneous levels. The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone, and on and on, and that song ought to be titled “Ode to Fascia.” Plantar fascia are the tissue that connect our heels to the rest of our feet, and plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of that heel fascia. For any of you who have had it, you know it hurts like the dickens, especially those first steps in the morning or after you’ve been off of your feet for a while.
Why do people get it? According to the medical world, there are a handful of contributing factors, some of them even contradictory. People with flat feet get it, but so do people with high arches. Joggers who jog too much get it, but so do couch potatoes who sit too much. When it comes to this painful condition, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that it is caused by the foot being under tremendous stress.
Fair enough, but why is that stress causing this painful symptom? After all, joggers jogged thousands of miles before the symptom appeared, so what changed? Besides, both heels on the jogger have traveled the same distance, so why is just one heel feeling the pain? And why on earth is the couch potato experiencing the pain?
There is no consensus, and if you don’t understand the symptom, it’s very difficult to offer a proper prescription. Most doctors end up treating plantar fasciitis with an injection like cortisone or orthotics to offer support, but the problem with these prescriptions is that they don’t solve the problem as much as they just silence the symptom.
Pain is the body’s way of telling you there’s a problem, a message we need to listen to rather than squelch, and barring trauma, the site of the pain is rarely the source of the problem. Therefore, to silence that screaming racket that your plantar fascia are making is to ignore the underlying problem, so nothing is going to get solved. But it’s even worse than that. When you offer support in the form of orthotics, you are actually weakening the afflicted area which, over time, will cause subsequent problems, not only in that area but throughout other parts of the body as well. Remember, the body is a single unit, and compensating in one area will negatively impact other areas. It’s inevitable. The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone, after all.
So yes, stress is the problem, but why? The short answer is the position of the foot.
There are three arches in our feet—the longitudinal lateral arch (which goes the length of the foot along the outside), the longitudinal medial arch (which goes the length of the foot along the inside) and the transversal arch, which is that big concave in the middle most people think of when they think of foot arches.
All babies are born flat-footed, and they develop these arches through their infant and toddler years, provided that development isn’t interrupted. (Learn more about the surprising thing affecting kids’ physical development here.) The design of those arches allows the foot to move in every direction to enable whatever it is we might do—stand, walk, run forward like a sprinter, run backwards like a defensive back, jump and spring like a volleyball player, or shuffle step sideways like a tennis player. In addition, that design is such that no matter the action, the weight of the load is evenly distributed across the entire foot.
All of this is predicated on the idea that, when standing completely still, the foot is naturally pointed straight ahead. But because of interrupted development, sedentary lifestyles, and numerous other contributing factors, our bodies get misaligned and our joints get deviated, as can be seen by a foot pointing out. When this happens, the weight during activity is no longer being evenly distributed across the foot, and sometimes, too much weight is being placed on that heel, thus leading to plantar fasciitis.
The good news is that there is a solution. If your joints are misaligned, and your feet are pointing out, you can realign them. In addition, if your arches have fallen, you can raise them again; that’s right, your flat feet don’t have to be. Our bones do what our muscles tell them to do; in infancy and toddlerhood, the actions of crawling and learning to walk compelled our foot muscles to tell our foot bones what they needed to hear in order to develop arches. With proper alignment exercises, that process can be duplicated in adulthood.
But that requires a full realigning of the body over the course of a few months. For now, here are a couple quick exercises that will bring temporary relief, the latter of which was given to me by the late Vladimir Janda, a pioneering genius in the field of muscular symmetry and postural alignment.
Plantar Fascia Stretch
With bare feet, sit in a chair with one leg crossed over the opposite knee. Interlace fingers between the crossed foot’s toes. Roll your pelvis forward to arch your lower back. Try to remain sitting straight throughout the entire exercise. First, using your hand, circle the foot outward (counter-clockwise), manipulating the toes purposely. Next, using your hand, circle the foot inward (clockwise), manipulating the toes purposely. Next, using your hand, flex and point your foot/toes using the hand to create the movement. Repeat these movements for one minute, then switch legs and repeat.
Stand with your feet hip width apart. Bring your right foot forward so that your right heel is in line with the toes of the left foot.Make sure both feet are pointing absolutely straight, and make sure your weight is evenly distributed in both feet. In this position, curl the toes of the right foot up off the floor using the muscles on the top of your foot. Try to spread them apart as you pull them off the floor. Do not let the ball of the foot lift off the floor, only lift the toes. Next press the toes into the floor without lifting the heel. The movement is elongating the toes as you press them down, not curling the toes. The arch of your foot will produce this motion, the arch will probably increase. Do three sets of 20 reps.
Remember, the body wants to function properly, and all pain, such as plantar fasciitis, is nothing more than its way of telling you that it currently isn’t. Align your body, and I promise those plantar fascia will stop that painful racket.
Known as the Father of Postural Therapy, Pete Egoscue has helped relieve thousands of people from their chronic pain, including many of the world’s leading athletes. For more information on Pete and any of his 25 clinics worldwide, go to egoscue.com.