Things happen in therapy that take you by surprise. Sometimes it’s back pain that is caused by tight calf muscles. Sometimes it’s headaches from a tight bicep. Sometimes it’s when a patient nearly kicks you right in the face. Today we’re going to fix your back pain by fixing your feet – and stop you from kicking your own therapist!
How we work
I was treating a patient not too long ago who had come to me with a slight bit of back pain and a bit of knee pain. Nothing too serious, nothing too painful…. until I got to his feet. As soon as I started to work on his feet, I had to dodge out of the way as he nearly kicked my teeth out. I had found a sore spot, some plantar fasciitis – and the root cause of his back pain.
The human body works synergistically – one thing affects the next. This is due to the way our muscles overlap and how one area impacts on another due to the kinetic chain, so the way I like to work is to look at the body as a whole. Sure, I can release the tight muscles in your back, but what’s making them tight to begin with?
If you’re experiencing headaches, it could be from overcompensation in your neck as it tries to keep your head level from the wonky pelvis you have, which is caused by your knock-knees, which comes from the way your ankles roll in due to the plantar fasciitis you have which stems from your shoes being too tight. Simple, right?
Your poor feet
One area of the human body that we often neglect is the feet. Apart from putting socks on them, when was the last time you ever gave them any attention? Exactly. And they do an awful lot for you; they hold you up all day, carry you from place to place and get wrapped up in tight shoes that don’t let them move or breathe properly. Can I get an “awwww”?
There are tremendous forces running through your feet, all day, everyday, so I believe it’s important to treat the feet every time. Now, because of the kinetic chain, sometimes things are more sensitive than you expect they’re going to be, and this was exactly the case for my patient when I went to work on his feet.
The foot is an incredibly complex thing, look at all those bones! It has to be strong enough to withstand you running and jumping all over the place, but also flexible enough to bounce and spring and not act like cement blocks at the end of your legs. Part of the way they do this is by being wrapped in ligaments and fascia, much the same way a boxer wraps his hands to keep them together. Fascia doesn’t just act like glue though, it contracts and moves the same way that muscles do, so it can get tight and uncomfortable.
What my patient had was something called ‘plantar fasciitis’ – where the fascia (connective tissue) on the bottom (plantar region) of the foot is tight. Plantar fascia runs from your heels to your toes and can get very painful if not treated. So, what can you do about it?
Get rid of plantar fasciitis and fix your back pain
Get a tennis ball, lacrosse ball or golf ball and stand on it. Carefully! A tennis ball is beginner level, lacrosse is intermediate and a golf ball is for the more experienced. As you’re standing on the ball of your choice, move it around slowly till you find a bit that hurts. When you find that tender spot, hold your foot still! It might take a minute or two but it will start to ease off. Then, on to the next spot! Repeat until you can’t find any more sore spots.
BONUS – try touching your toes before doing this and then again after. Let me know the difference in the comments below.
Stretch your calves – find a step and put your heel on the floor and your toes on the wall of the step. Lean forward till you get a good stretch down the back of your leg. You can also roll your calf using the same tennis/lacrosse/golf ball method.
Take your shoes off! And your socks too. Go barefoot somewhere, even if it’s just your living room. There is some research to say that being connected to the ground can improve blood flow. I don’t know about that, but I do know being barefoot helps us to move better and it certainly feels great.
It doesn’t take much to thank your feet, but it does make a huge impact on your body. Avoid, or treat, plantar fasciitis with these tips and help relieve the pressure it causes on your back. Happy feet, happy body.