Adjust Away Your Foot Problems

May 4, 2009

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Introduction

The average person takes between 3,000 and 5,000 steps per day. In addition, many of us are engaged in activities, such as running and aerobic exercise, that add many more steps, as well as stress to our poor, overworked feet. It is no wonder that plenty of people have aches and pains in this part of the body. Components such as flat feet or over-pronated feet, individual walking and running style, and the type of shoe a person wears can determine if someone will develop foot and ankle pain. However these factors can also affect the health of a person’s back, knees and legs. Defined below are a few of the most prevalent conditions that affect the feet and ankle.

Hallux Valgus and Bunions

Hallux Valgus is a problem that occurs when the big toe or hallux deviates towards the outside of the foot, often practically overlapping or bumping into the adjacent toe. It is a slow-developing affliction that normally develops a bump on the inside of the big toe, called a bunion. Hallux Valgus pain is usually experienced during weight-bearing activities such as walking or prolonged standing, however if a bunion is present, a “numbing” or “burning” pain in the big toes can be felt at rest.

The joint between the big toe and the first metatarsal (the first metatarsal-phalangeal) is the true complication, and not the bone, itself. The pain and deformity associated with Hallux Valgus is due to harm to this joint. Over-pronation that causes abnormal pressure on the big toe and first metatarsal during walking causes the prolonged wear and tear that many times results in Hallux Valgus. Inflammatory arthritis that damages the joint and creates degenerative changes is another cause. But, one of the most prevalent causes of the affliction is the high-heeled and pointed shoes that women frequently wear. These shoes not only put additional stress on the joint, but also assist in pushing the big toe to the outside.

If you are experiencing Hallux Valgus, your chiropractor can examine your foot to determine which factors are contributing to your challenge, and then use a variety of chiropractic techniques and modalities to decrease pain and improve the function of your foot.

Plantar Fascitis ( Heel Pain )

Heel pain, known as Plantar Fascitis, is a common foot ailment created by aggravation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that encases the muscles on the bottom of the foot . It attaches the heel bone to the ball of the foot, supporting the arch, protecting the foot, and absorbing shock.

Patients with Plantar Fascitis often complain of pain in the morning after first standing when they get out of bed and also when they stand up after having sat for a while. The pain starts just in front of the heel bone, but can advance over the entire bottom of the foot.

If left untreated, irritation associated with the condition can lead to the development of scar tissue, calcium deposits and eventually heel spurs. Heel spurs, a bony growth on the front part of the calcaneus of the heel bone where the plantar fascia is connected, can cause a sharp stabbing pain with walking.

There are many factors that contribute to the development of Plantar Fascitis but people who have other foot conditions, especially Pes Planus (flat feet) and over-pronation are most susceptible. Muscle imbalances between the calf muscles and the muscles on the bottom of the foot are a powerful contributing factor. Frequently the calf muscles get short and tight exerting a strong pull upon the back of the calcaneus. Such a problem produces unnecessary stress on the smaller, weaker plantar muscles and its fascia that are connected to the other side of the calcaneus. Wearing high heels will produce a shorting and tightening of the calf muscles, as will running and jumping activities. Other factors that stress the plantar fascia include: sudden strenuous activity after a period of long-term inactivity, abnormal walking patterns, unsuitable footwear, walking on hard or uneven surfaces especially barefooted, and obesity.

People who are constantly on their feet, such as nurses, teachers and waiters, are more susceptible to Plantar Fascitis, as are athletes who participate in foot-stressing activities such as aerobics, volleyball, running, basketball, and tennis.

It is often difficult to manage Plantar Fascitis once it has developed, and the problem can become extremely painful and persistent. A chiropractor will be able to determine the cause of your pain and what management is most fitting. Treatment might include ultrasound therapy, laser, joint manipulation, muscle stretching and strengthening exercises, special taping and, in some cases, orthotics.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles Tendonitis is a painful, and often, debilitating inflammation of the Achilles tendon, also called the “heel cord.” This large tendon is an extension of the two biggest calf muscles and runs down the back of the lower leg adhering to the heel bone or calcaneus. Damage to this significant tendon can make it challenging or even impossible to walk. The challenge may be caused by a sudden single incident, such as jumping, but more commonly it results from an accumulation of smaller stresses that cause small tears in the tendon over time. Because the symptoms appear gradually, in the beginning many Achilles Tendonitis sufferers may attribute the initial discomfort to the aches and pains that accompany age or fatigue. Nevertheless, the ailment will gradually worsen, especially if the person attempts to “work through” the pain. In severe cases, a total rupture of the tendon can arise, resulting in traumatic injury and severe pain that makes walking virtually impossible and may even require corrective surgery.

Achilles tendonitis is often associated with athletes and performers, such as dancers, who are involved in running and jumping activities, specifically those that include sudden starts and stops. Also, women who routinely wear high-heeled shoes are also at risk, particularly if they switch to sport shoes for exercise. In these cases, the Achilles tendon and muscles gradually adapt to the shortened position created by wearing high-heels, as the heel does not have to stretch all the way to the ground. When this comes about, the shift to exercise or flat shoes forces the Achilles tendon to stretch further than it is accustomed to, thus causing stress and aggravation. Therefore, high-heels should not be worn everyday. If they are unavoidable, stretching should be done every morning and night to keep the Achilles tendon lengthened.

As mentioned above, Achilles tendonitis is often age-related, expressly in men who are athletes. As a person ages, the arch tends to flatten creating over-pronation and increased stress on the Achilles tendon, as well as the calf and foot muscles. Likewise, problems are also common in the “weekend warrior” who exercises infrequently, as well as those who are just starting to exercise. In such people, the muscles and tendons have little flexibility due to inactivity, and overindulgence in exercise in the beginning can produce tendonitis. Therefore, people who are just starting to exercise after a long layoff should stretch properly, start slowly, and increase gradually.

No matter the reason, if you are experiencing Achilles tendonitis symptoms, it is vital for you to see a qualified professional. Your chiropractor is a highly-skilled professional who can help you to manage the ailment before it becomes severe.

Pes Planus ( Flat Feet )

Flat Feet, or Pes Planus as it is called by the medical community, is very common. It is approximated that at least one quarter of people have flat feet. Human beings are not born with an arch, but develop them somewhere between ages 3-10. However, some individuals never develop an arch. There are a number of factors, along with genetic disposion that can cause flat feet, or predispose a person to the problem. On occasion people develop arches only to have them collapse later in their life. This often depends upon lifestyle, job, and level of activity. Age and weight also are a factor in the development of the problem. Middle-aged people who have been working on their feet for years often experience flat feet, as do overweight individuals who are placing added stress on their feet and legs.

Having flat feet does not always mean you will have pain, as it is possible for individuals to have the ailment and never feel any distress. For people who do develop pain, it generally happens in the feet and knees, and possibly in the hips and lower back. If you feel you have flat feet and are experiencing discomfort, you should see your Orlando chiropractor to determine a plan of care that can relieve your pain and prevent additional symptoms from developing. Chiropractic treatment includes joint adjustments to improve foot function and resolve painful symptoms. Your chiropractor may also prescribe arch-supporting insoles, called orthotics, for additional support and stability.

Metatarsalgia ( Pain in the ball of the foot )

Metatarsalgia, sometimes called “ball-of-foot pain,” is a pain in the bottom of the foot just behind the toes where the foot bends during walking. The pain is caused by a dyfunction in one or more of the five metatarsal bones that extend from about halfway up the foot to the toes.

While many patients with metatarsalgia feel discomfort where their metatarsal bones join their toe bones, some also feel irritation along the entire length of the metatarsals and possibly between them. Challenges vary from stiffness upon movement to a burning or stinging sensation. The degree of discomfort depends upon whether the problem is due to a dysfunction in the joints or an inflammation to the nerves as they travel along the metatarsals.

The cause of the condition is due to either structural or functional reasons. When a structural problem takes palce, such as when the metacarpal bones are either too long or too short, it produces aberrant mechanics in the feet and undue stress on the entire area. Flat feet or extreme arch can also alter the stresses on the metatarsals causing similar symptoms.

Surplus body weight, as well as wearing high-heeled shoes, are both ancillary factors as they increase stress on the metatarsal that can lead to joint pain and nerve inflammation. Furthermore, excessive or poor running or athletic training can exasserbate the condition because repetitive foot activities directly stress the metatarsals by exposing them to constant trauma.

No matter the cause, a chiropractor can beneficially treat metatarsalgia. After diagnosing what factors are underlying your condition, your chiropractor can offer a variety of non-invasive therapies, including orthotics, as well as offer recommendations on how you can avoid future pain.

See your Orlando chiropractor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any of the foot problems mentioned above.


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