The month of August is one for many awareness occasions – one of which pertains to your feet! Yes, it is Foot Health Awareness Month. Although we may take care of keeping our heels smooth and our toes pedicured, many of us have injured our feet along the way and sit with the consequences for ages afterwards!
Mopani Pharmacy had a chat with Neline Kellerman, a qualified physiotherapist on understanding and optimising your foot health in terms of injuries and long term care.
How is your foot connected to the rest of your body?
“Your body functions as a kinetic chain. If one link in the chain is out of place it affects the rest of the body. For instance, if your foot or ankle is injured, you will walk differently than you normally would. This can cause pain in your lower back or buttocks”, Neline explained.
What are the most common causes for foot injuries?
“Most injuries are a result of overuse. In most athletes it is often a case of doing too much, too fast after doing too little, for too long”, said Neline.
If you are planning on getting fit after a long period without any physical activity, you should ease into it and do proper warm-ups and stretching, before and after your workouts.
“Correct footwear also plays an important role in prevention of foot injuries.”
If you are about to walk on a smooth tile and your shoes have no grip, you will slip. If you have a specific job that requires safety shoes, you should make sure to wear them. Jogging in shoes that are inadequate can cause a variety of issues; such as plantar fasciitis (pain in the bottom of the foot), shin splints or Iliotibial Band Syndrome (IBS; Runners Knee).
How can you support your foot care, long term?
“Injury prevention is important. Intrinsic foot muscle strengthening is often overlooked in long term foot care, as well as stretching of the foot muscles”, said Neline.
You can stretch and exercise your feet with the following methods – this is best done barefoot:
- Pull the balls of your feet towards your heel. Hold the position for a few seconds, then relax your foot back to the neutral position – Repeat this 10 times
- Pull your toes apart. Try to move your big toe as far away from your other toes as possible. You’ll feel the muscles of the arch of your foot contract. Hold the position for a few seconds, then relax your foot back to the neutral position – Repeat this 10 times
- Use an elastic exercise band to pull your feet backward, while resisting and pushing your toes forward
“Further, make sure you wear the correct footwear for the specific activities you participate in. Improper foot wear can result in bunions, hammertoes and other foot deformities,” Neline explained.
If there is an issue with the foot, do you only treat the foot, or do you look at other parts of the body affected as well?
“Treating only the symptom is not the answer. Treatment should consist of treating the symptoms as well as the cause of foot pain. For an example; a runner may have poor pelvic stability. This results in an altered gait pattern that overflows to excessive external rotation and altered load on the foot – which means you are putting more weight on one foot than the other, and not distributing that weight evenly across the foot but perhaps favouring the outer part of the heel, hypothetically. Only treating the foot pain will not resolve the patients injury”, said Neline.
Are there any myths about feet that you would like to bust?
Myth: Foot pain is normal as you get older.
“Foot pain is not normal at any age, and many painful conditions such as arthritis, bunions, plantar fasciitis (pain in the bottom of your foot) can be treated seeking the correct medical advice.”
Myth: If you pronate (your feet turn more outward) you should get an anti-pronation shoe.
This is not always true, and it’s better to seek the advice of a podiatrist or orthotist as the degree of pronation that needs to be corrected might not be altered with a store bought anti-pronation shoe.
How do you treat pain in the feet that are chronic after an injury?
“With all injuries both chronic and acute, a diagnosis should be made, and a treatment plan should be determined to help alleviate the patient’s pain and symptoms.”
Treatment plans will include
- Altering of load, putting less weight on the foot
- Medication, if required and prescribed by your doctor
- Assessment of footwear and alteration where required – this could be an insole, special shoe or temporary moonboot or cast
- Introduction to a rehabilitation protocol designed to the patient’s specific needs
- Rehabilitation programs will include stretching and strengthening of not only the foot but also correcting any imbalances further up the kinetic chain
Are there any benefits to walking barefoot vs. with shoes on?
“Yes! But only when it is safe to do so, as it would be inside your home.”
Benefits of walking or training barefoot include:
- Improvement of balance and proprioception (your body’s ability to sense its own location, movements and actions), which can help with pain relief
- Better foot mechanics which can lead to improved mechanics at the knee, hips and core
- Helps to improve and maintain good range of motion in your foot and ankle joints as well as adequate strength in your ankle and foot ligaments and muscles
- It allows for relief from improperly fitting shoes
What are the causes of tension in the feet – such as cramps or spasms?
Prolonged standing in improper foot wear can add to tired feet and the fatigue often leads to cramps and spasms. Furthermore, factors such as diet and stress also play a role in cramping and spasms.
Making use of supplements such as magnesium can help with muscle cramps in general.
When should someone definitely see a physiotherapist regarding their feet?
If you experience any form of pain in your feet, your physiotherapist will be able to help with an assessment, diagnosis and treatment plan.
Background on Neline’s practice
Hoffman Kellerman Physiotherapists is a sport, orthopaedic and rehabilitation orientated physiotherapy practice based in Sonpark Shopping Centre.
To book an appointment with one of our two qualified physiotherapists you can kindly call or WhatsApp: Neline (0726853121) or Anke (0745120295)
Anke and Neline have both been practicing since 2007 after completing their studies at UOFS in 2006.
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