Even though our feet are rarely on our minds, we are almost always on our feet. This April during National Foot Health Awareness Month, take some time to appreciate these resilient appendages. When we neglect them, they become exposed to injury and pain, which affects wellness overall.
Because the nerves that extend to the feet are the longest in the body, the health of those nerves can determine the health of large parts of the body, not just the foot and lower extremities. Pain from the feet can radiate up the body’s kinetic chain, the mechanical connection in the body that transmits force in a chain reaction. For example, someone who has an ankle sprain is at an increased risk for an ACL injury.
The goal of any restorative measure is to get the patient out of pain, but this process is not always approached the same way. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Feinblatt spoke to me about the various ways people work to heal their feet. Let’s look at plantar fasciitis to explore more.
Plantar Fasciitis is a common term, but not everyone know what it really means. In latin, Plantar means “relating to the foot,” “fascia” means a band of connective tissue made up of collagen, and “itis” “denotes diseases characterized by inflammation or infection.” But in reality there is no such thing as plantar fasciitis because the plantar fascia does not become inflamed. Instead, says Dr. Feinblatt, there are micro-changes in the collagen, which causes it to harden. However, we still refer to the condition as plantar fasciitis. People seek relief in a variety of ways: injections, physical therapy, arch supports, and surgery.
Injections of corticosteroid may have their role in healing, but not to the extent with it is used in the general population. Dr. Feinblatt notes how the treatment is actually detrimental to the tissue in the foot, which becomes weakened after the steroid injection and causes the natural cushion to decrease. While MRIs, imaging, and CT scans have led to many medical advancements, they can also cause over-diagnoses. Trying other options before surgery can make a big difference. Arch supports are a non-invasive way to heal foot problems and can help with bunions and some forms of arthritis, for example.
People look to arch supports for other reasons too. While wearing heels on occasion is not typically a problem for most folks, Dr. Feinblatt explains, those who wear high heels continually can experience a tightening of the calf muscles and a drawing up of the foot muscles, making the toes look like hammers. This condition is called hammer toe. Arch supports can provide support to the metatarsal arch, which helps to take pressure off the ball of the foot. This may also allow the muscles of the foot to work more efficiently, relieving the tension in hammertoes.
Getting out of pain and back into the things you love is a special experience. Fretting over possible procedures and expenses doesn’t have to be a part of it. Many common foot conditions result from a lack of proper support and ability to function. But often times, simply supporting the arches of the foot and allowing pressure to distribute evenly can make a significant difference and get you on the road to healthy feet.