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Feet, Muscles and Fascia

by Eric Winder, DC

 

When your feet hurt, you quickly stop taking them for granted. Whether from pronation, tendonitis, a sprain injury or a number of other causes, foot pain impacts your lifestyle. When you want the feet to heal, you need treatment that addresses the root of the problem. So in this article, we are going to discuss the role of fascia (fibrous connective tissue) and muscles in foot pain. 

Treating foot pain is difficult because we walk on our feet daily. It’s almost impossible to just stop walking and rest your feet until the injured tissue heals. This makes effective treatment even more urgent. However, many times, treatment for foot problems focuses only on the foot.  Orthotics, taping, supportive shoes or socks and bunion pads can be helpful, but they don’t necessarily address the contributing causes in a way that will bring lasting relief. 

 

Structure Needs Support

The structure of the foot is complex with many small bones and critical joints between the various bones. This structure is supported by the ligaments and muscles of the foot, as well as muscles of the lower leg and their tendons located on the top, bottom and sides of the feet. Muscles that move your toes and ankles are also crucial for proper foot function, and when those muscles are weak or imbalanced, problems will result. 

                All the muscles and joints of the foot and lower leg are surrounded by fascia. This fascia of the foot and leg is continuous with fascia of the thigh, hips and lower back. Because fascia contains nerve endings that give us position sense (or proprioception), restriction and distortion in the fascia create “glitches” in muscle tone and balance. In the case of our feet, fascial problems anywhere from the lower back down to the feet can potentially imbalance or weaken the lower leg and foot muscles which support the joints of the foot.

 

From Pain to Relief

As an example, a patient of mine I will refer to as Mary came into my office complaining of chronic foot pain from fractured bones in her feet that healed a year prior, but were still painful.  She had also developed plantar fasciitis with sharp heel pain in the same foot. She had been treated with cortisone injections, orthopedic shoes, and even six weeks in a wheel chair to alleviate the pain.  However, no interventions had been done to assess or treat imbalances in her lower extremity fascia and musculature.

                Mary had significant stiffening of fascia around the joints of the middle of the foot where the arch is deepest. Certain muscles of her lower leg were weakened, and others overly tight due to the effects of restricted fascia in the leg and around the knee, as well as her hips and lower back.  Fortunately, releasing the problem restrictions in her fascia helped to restore normal muscle tone and balance. This reduced stiffness in her foot and offered her pain relief. She learned simple exercises to strengthen the right muscles to keep her foot feeling strong and healthy. 

                Here is a list of common foot problems and areas of restriction or weakness that frequently contribute to the problems. 

 

Plantar fasciitis

Tension and weakness in the soleus muscle

Metatarsalgia

Weakness in the muscles that move the toes

Morton’s neuroma

Weakness of toe and ankle muscles

Pronation (can cause foot and ankle pain)

Weakness of the tibialis anterior muscle

Chronic ankle sprain

Restriction of the ankle fascia

Bunion

Weak thigh and ankle muscles

 

While every situation is unique, in most cases of foot pain that I treat, something must be done to address the muscles of the lower leg and fascia restriction in the lower half of the body. In fact, fascial restriction is one of the main causes of muscular weakness. Releasing the restrictions makes it easier to strengthen the weak muscles. Even when there is physical change to the foot such as bunions or arthritis, relief is often possible with this extra level of treatment.

 

You are invited to attend an evening program October 24 where you can learn in-depth about fascia, why it is important, and how to solve fascia problems when they create pain. I will discuss case examples, provide a treatment demonstration and hold a Q&A session following the presentation. Attendees are invited to arrive at 6:45 p.m. for refreshments, and the program itself will take place from 7–8 p.m. This free event is located at 3131 S Tamiami Trail, #102, Sarasota. To RSVP, call 941-957-8390. 

 

Dr. Eric Winder has been practicing chiropractic for 21 years with a focus on fascial treatment and soft tissue therapies for the past 18 years. Dr. Winder focuses on relieving pain and restoring alignment and motion through soft tissue therapies without forceful manipulation. For more information, visit GentleBay.com.   

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