Hello and welcome to this week’s blog about your feet and ankles. And it is finally June, summer is upon us even if we cannot holiday abroad yet. We have just had the warmest, driest, and sunniest May for about a hundred years! I hope you were able to soak up some sunshine and holiday vibes in your garden.
If you have been reading my recent blogs, you will have learnt that I give you a bit of an overview of issues associated with each joint area of the body. In the coming weeks and months, I will dive into a bit more detail about specific issues so that you can learn as much as possible about the issue bothering you. These current blogs will allow you to recognise what is happening to you, and hopefully lead you to research it a bit further to help yourself.
Anatomy of your Feet and Ankles
The tibia and fibula bones of your lower leg sit upon the talus, cuboid, navicular and calcaneus bones. Further down, is the cuboid bone with the three cuneiform bones sitting alongside it.
Then five metatarsal bones make up the mid foot, then the phalange bones which make up your toes.
There are 20 muscles in each foot, as well as 100 tendons and ligaments, 26 bones and 33 joints. There are also a whopping 250,000 sweat glands in each foot.
There are 7 different muscles which aid plantarflexion and dorsiflexion of your foot, that is the toes pointing down and toes pointing up.
Because a quarter of your bones are in your feet… read that again, a QUARTER of your bones are in your feet, it means that any issues in the feet will likely make the whole body feel off kilter.
On average, you will walk about 100,00 miles in your lifetime…so look after those feet.
Issues with Your Feet and Ankles
If you are experiencing discomfort somewhere in one of your feet or an ankle, chances are it is one of the issues listed below.
Achilles Tenditis is a soreness of the tendon which attaches your calf muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus, with the calcaneus bone of your foot. Characterised by tenderness, swelling in the tendon, reduced mobility. Immediate de-load of activity is necessary to prevent a rupture or chronic discomfort.
Plantar Fasciitis is the fascia that connects the heel bone to the toes and runs underside of your foot. This can become inflamed through sudden increase of intensity or duration of activity, as well as wearing ill fitting shoes or a weakness in your lower limb muscles.
Stress Fracture happens more commonly in the foot than many other places of the body, due to the nature of it taking the whole body’s weight in every activity. The navicular bone as well as the metatarsals are frequent culprits and like with any break, weakness and soreness will alert you that something is not quite right. An x-ray is the only way to know for sure. Many people stress fracture parts of the foot and never get it checked. While it is possible to heal without too much intervention, it is a good idea to know exactly what is happening, to prevent possible future complications or issues with foot mobility.
Metatarsalagia this is when the ball of your foot becomes sore and inflamed. Commonly found in running and jumping sports but can be caused by foot deformities and ill-fitting shoes.
Mortons Neuroma is a thickening of tissues around one of the nerves between the metatarsals, effectively squeezing the nerve. This can create a burning, stinging or numb feeling.
Peroneal Tendinopathy is when the muscles on the outside of the ankle, the peroneals, become injured and cause discomfort. These help the ankle and foot move in an outward direction as well as helping the foot point downwards.
Retrocalcaneal Bursitis causes the heel to hurt, because of an inflammation to the bursa between the calcaneus bone and achilles tendon.
Sever’s Disease is also known as apophysitis of the calcaneus, and is an inflammation of the calcaneus growth plate, effecting children who are very active.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome sounding similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, because the cause and symptoms are very similar. The posterior tibial nerve is squeezed, causing discomfort in the foot and toes.
Turf Toe is a sprain of the big toe usually caused by excessive bending of the toe joint at the metatarsal.
Anterolateral Ankle Impingement a complicated entrapment of soft tissue in the lateral structures of the ankle, commonly resultant of a tear to one of the larger ligaments of the ankle, the anterior talofibular and/or the calcaneofibular ligaments.
Heel Fat Pad Syndrome comes about when the fat pad in the heel, which protects you from soreness when your heel lands during walking, decreases in size and/or elasticity. It can decrease naturally with age as well as weight gain.
Sprain by far the most common injury of all to the ankle, which happens when you roll, twist, or turn your ankle in an awkward way. It hurts because of a stretch or a tear to a ligament in your ankle. This can take a while to heal due to the reduced blood flow to the ligaments. Be aware that when a ligament has been stretched, it is unlikely to go back to its original size and could be prone to further sprains. It is, however, possible to increase size and strength of your ligaments to injury proof them, by training and sports.
How to Heal Feet and Ankle Issues
Commonly rest is the first antidote to many issues, however the true first step to recovery is to protect the area from further stress, then rest, then with an application of an ice pack. Then a support bandage where appropriate and raising the injured area. This all comes under the famous acronym PRICE.
After the first 1-3 days of doing this, then you will know where you are, hopefully with a diagnosis from a professional. You will know at which point after this diagnosis that you can go for a massage, or to begin gradually loading the area you have damaged.
Take Achilles Tendinitis for example. You would be walking about during daily activities anyway, with an immediate de-load of your sporting activities, dependent on the degree of the issue, then you would progress on to gently loading the tendon with body weight exercise before moving on to increased load. Your health professional, such as myself or your physio, will be able to guide you on what to do.
It is vital to take care of any issue when it arises, so that you are not adding insult to injury by continuing to weight bear and aggravate issue.
Complications from Foot and Ankle Issues
Ignoring discomfort in the feet and ankles can lead to dysfunction in the rest of the body. This is something that can be quite confusing to hear but remember that a quarter of your bones are in your feet. When an issue arises in one of these bones, or the muscles, tendons, or ligaments, then your body will adjust how it uses its feet.
I treat Plantar Fasciitis commonly in my room, and it usually comes along with many friends, such as hip discomfort, lower back hurting, shoulder weakness, neck ache, headaches. And a lot of the time, it is because of the Plantar Fasciitis.
When your foot is hurting, your upper body will adjust how it walks and moves to provide support to that foot, easing pressure upon it. This leads to more weight bearing on the good foot as well a tilt in the hips to allow this. This tilt in the hips then places strain upon the lower back, and now the back muscles are having to compensate for this strange movement. Your shoulders won’t have the same strength if they are having to allow for other muscles to compensate and of course, some of your back muscles attach to the occipital process on your skull and are involved in neck movement. Tightness at the neck impacts your head, leading to headaches. Your whole body is connected, and it is rare for one issue somewhere in the body to not have an impact elsewhere, even if it is seemingly unconnected.
Look after your feet and ankles, and they will look after you.
Thank you for spending a few moments of your time reading my blog – Your Feet and Ankles. and I hope to see you on the other side of lockdown, in the not too distant future. If you would like to get in touch please feel free to contact me.