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Foot Issues

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By: Dr. Stephen O’Neil

The feet are very complex structures made up of many small bones connected by ligaments, forming many joints. These joints are controlled by several intrinsic muscles as well as the muscles of the lower leg. All these structures must work together for proper foot function to occur. Efficient foot function is required for normal walking and running. The feet also make up the base or the foundation which your body relies on for balance and stability.

Foot pain can be a debilitating problem. It can prevent people from enjoying even the most basic daily activities. Foot pain can be caused by many different things and can have far reaching consequences on the rest of the body. Low back, hip, and knee problems can cause imbalances and uneven weight-bearing on the feet. These imbalances can lead to many foot problems including arch problems or repetitive stress issues such as tendonitis or bursitis in the feet. Conversely foot problems can cause a person to limp or favour a side which can promote imbalances up the kinetic chain leading to chronic ankle, knee, hip, back, and even neck problems.

Foot pain can be produced by a plethora of conditions but they all have similar causes. Some common conditions that may cause foot pain are plantar fasciitis, which is inflammation of the ligament and muscle on the bottom of the foot, and heel spurs which are boney growths into the fascia where it attaches to the heel bone. Both of these conditions are very painful and are hallmarked by pain in the bottom of the foot radiating from the heel into the arch. This is significantly worse with the first few steps in the morning and loosens out as the day goes on. Bunions which most commonly affect women are a deformity of the big toe, with excessive callous and then calcific deposits at the proximal joint. Another common cause of foot pain which affects the forefoot more than the rest of the foot is Morton's Neuroma. This is an inflammation of the nerve and nerve sheath between the first and second toes. Trauma can also cause foot pain. Sprains of the feet are common and can be every bit as painful, and much more complicated than an ankle sprain.

As said before, no matter what the actual condition, the underlying causes for foot pain are usually the same. Our feet tend to change as we age, due to normal wear and tear, the ligaments stretch or lose their elasticity and our arches flatten out. Prolonged standing, especially on cement floors, is a repetitive stress that can cause foot problems. These problems can be amplified if a person is overweight and/or wearing improper footwear. Footwear, with no support for the natural contours of the feet or ankles such as sandals and especially flip-flops should not be worn for prolonged periods of time. Narrow toed shoes can cause bunions or Neuromas. Wearing very rigid work boots with a metal shank can promote foot pain. Foot pain is also common when someone increases the duration or intensity of their walking, jogging, or running activities.

From a chiropractic standpoint treatment of foot pain is very important, because as said before, our feet make up the foundation for a very dynamic system. A minor imbalance in the feet can cause major problems in the rest of the body especially the spine. After a complete and thorough history and exam, your chiropractor will make a diagnosis. Treatment may consist of any combination of ice, rest, massage, active release therapy, electric stimulation, or ultrasound. Stretching of the muscles in the feet, calves, and legs may also be introduced. The most important treatment for foot conditions involves balancing the normal biomechanics in foot motion and supporting the arches. This is achieved through adjustments and strengthening exercises, as well as the use of orthotics. Orthotics are custom fit inserts built directly and specifically to fit your feet. When built and worn properly, they will bring the joints in the feet into their neutral position and promote proper foot biomechanics.

If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms or conditions, see your chiropractor for a complete foot analysis. Early diagnosis and treatment is paramount in preventing severe and prolonged symptoms that may have far reaching consequences in your health and Active Life.