Foot pain and dysfunction is very common. You may have been suffering from foot pain for a long time and keep shuffling around the problem. For some, the pain is worse first thing in the morning (think plantar fasciitis or achilles tendonitis) or is irritated with certain pairs of shoes or after activity.
Foot pain may come from repetitive strain (think running, standing all day, poor footwear) or damage (think bunions, fractures, arthritis or plantar fasciitis). To compensate for the pain we limp or create a walk that takes the pressure off. We may stand on the outside edge of the foot, sway from side to side, walk with weight forwards on the toes or lean right back on the heels. Your feet then get stiff and sore in other places and we might notice sore knees, hip or low back pain starting to creep in too. Overtime, your feet start to change shape, the muscles become tight and stiff, and the foot becomes hard and sore with poor mobility. Pregnancy can also dramatically change the shape of the foot arch and cause other problems.
Dr Piers Bubbers says: “I see the structure of the foot as similar to the hand. Lots of bones, joints and small strong muscles. The main difference is that the foot is weight bearing and so has stronger bones and muscular connections. The foot obviously needs to be mobile for walking but it also needs to be supple and have some spring in its arch to act as a shock absorber for the rest of the body.”
In clinic, Piers predominantly treats feet using using counter-strain technique. This is a technique where clearly defined tender-points are placed into a position of ease by gently and slowly positioning the foot. As a result the pain disappears from the tender-point and, after a short period of time, the tissues normalise, become pain free and the range of motion improves. There are at least 16 tender-points in the ankle and foot!
Osteopathic treatment is aimed at restoring a more normal bio-mechanical setup in the foot so there is a more even distribution of pressure. This results in a better range of foot mobility which improves your ability to stride out when walking. This treatment may also benefit the knee, hip, low back and other areas of the body which are compensating for poor foot mechanics. As Osteopaths we are trained as primary care practitioners and sometimes it may be necessary to refer to another health professional if there is an undiagnosed condition present.
HOT TIP: Feet love heat. Piers recommends warm foot magnesium baths to alleviate symptoms. Water helps get the heat into the whole foot and gets the circulation moving.