‘Heel’ Your Foot Pain … Safely and Naturally.

Images of foot exercises to help alleviate plantar fasciitis pain

Foot Pain is a common complaint in my practice. Many people feel expensive surgeries, drugs, appliances or just living with the pain are their only options. For most of my patients, chronic pain presents when their body is no longer able to recover between activities.

When you are performing an activity, like skiing, biking or running, your body takes time to recover and heal. Say you have mild foot pain and numbness while you hike. Usually when you are done the pain and numbness go away within a couple of hours. If you continue to hike without proper recovery exercises and care, the pain and numbness will take longer to go away, eventually building up to the chronic pain level. If you do nothing to help heal this pain, the pain may last for days, months, even years.

When you are young, your body is able to recover and heal itself quickly because there has not been years of injuries and/or illnesses. As you get older, injuries with insufficient rest time and care will add up and become chronic. With age, all of our body’s natural processes slow down, it takes longer to heal injuries. Most of us do not slow down the intensity of our activities and/or increase our rest time. Gradually one day you realize you have a serious and painful issue.

Acupuncture can help your body heal itself naturally and reduce the amount of time it takes to recover. Acupuncture works by tapping into the body’s nervous, vascular, and cellular systems. When these vital systems are in harmony, the body can properly function and therefore heal. Acupuncture is a proven side-effect-free therapy to not only recover from injury, but heal from chronic pain.

For chronic foot pain, it can take a couple of treatments until you notice a change. This does not mean the acupuncture is not working. During each acupuncture treatment years of injury built up in the body will slowly break down. For most patients, getting regular acupuncture treatments will continue the healing all the way until their symptoms are gone. Once gone, it is important to get maintenance treatments to continue staying healthy and make sure any new injuries do not become chronic.

Maintenance treatments might be more frequent during the height of your activity, but they also might be just a few throughout the year. Each case is unique and we work together to figure out what is right for you. While you are not getting treatments it is very important to take care of your feet to maintain good health.

A lot of shoes we wear every day also cause poor foot alignment. Wearing shoes that squeeze your toes together reduces blood flow and can decrease the spaces between your joints. This can lead to bone spurs, plantar fasciitis, mortons neuroma, and arthritis. When looking for shoes it is helpful for your feet to have a wide toe box and arch support. Simply changing your shoes and/or adding a quality orthotic can reduce your foot pain and prevent chronic conditions. 

In addition to acupuncture, here are some ways to keep your feet healthy and happy.

  1. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your feet on the ground. Bring your right ankle over your left knee. Press both of your thumbs into the center of the bottom of your foot, closer to your heel, and apply pressure as you move your thumbs toward your toes. Repeat five to ten times then switch feet. The gentle massage over your feet will reduce muscle and tendon tightness.
  2. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your feet on the ground. Bring your right ankle over your left knee. Interlace your left fingers between your right toes. Hold for up to 30 seconds. If you can not get four fingers between your toes do two at a time and make sure you stretch the spaces between your toes evenly. This helps open up the spaces between your toes and increases circulation to that area.
  3. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your feet on the ground, knees bent. Take a hand towel and lay it underneath your feet. Grab the towel with your toes and scrunch the towel up under your feet, moving the towel toward you (picture 3a and 3b). This will strengthen the muscles in your feet and increase blood flow to your arches.
  4. Stand on a bottom stair holding onto a hand rail or the wall for balance. Let the bottom of your heels hang over the edge of the ledge. Flex your right toes and tighten the muscles in both legs. Bring your weight into your right foot. Let your left knee bend slightly and keep your left foot on the ledge. Hold here for 30 seconds then switch sides (picture 4a and 4b). It is important you maintain good posture and tighten your core during this stretch. This stretches out your calf muscles, the tendons that attach to your heel, and the muscles in the bottom of your feet. Generally, this stretch is easier with athletic shoes on.
  5. Sit in a chair or on the floor and roll your foot over a golf ball. Make sure to roll it around the entire base of your foot. There are also many great products on the market for rolling your feet.
  6. Many patients are surprised to learn in our office Dr. John L. Graham, D.C. does extremity adjusting. A quick adjustment to a problematic foot can improve nerve flow and fix misalignments in the feet.

Alyssa Kuge Frain, MSAOM, L.AC.

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