By Mary Ann Coughlin

Did you know:

• Your feet contain ¼ of the bones in your body

• There are 33 joints

• Slightly under 100 ligaments and tendons

• 19 muscles

• 26 bones

• A vast number of blood vessels and nerves that connect to the heart, spine and brain

• 250,000 sweat glands that produce ½ pint of sweat daily

Sounds like a lot for such a small structure that supports our body weight and allows us to walk,run and jump on a daily basis. By the age of 50, an average person has walked 75,000 miles.

Because there are so many structures in our feet there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Some may seem simple, like an ankle sprain but if not treated properly can result in a series of events that lead to constant pain and instability in the ankle. Or more serious issues such as diabetes that can lead to recurring infections and pain if left untreated.

Ill fitting and unsupportive shoes can contribute to a myriad of foot problems. These include corns,bunions,plantar fascitis(pain along a thick band on the sole of your foot that connects your heel to your toes), pmetatarsagia (pain in the ball of the foot), and hammer toes. Remember your parents feet? Some of these conditions can also be hereditary.

Orthotics (inner supports for your shoes) can help to relieve some of the pain from conditions like plantar fascitis, arthritis, diabetes and metatarsalgia. If having custom orthotics made it is best to see an orthotist or a pedorthotist who are specially trained in orthotics to get the appropriate device for your condition.

Since so may of our foot problems such as arthritis, bursitis(inflammation of a fluid filled sac that cushions our joints), tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon), sprains (slight tears in a ligament), strains (spasms in the muscle) and heel spurs ( calcium deposits in the heel) result in pain, possibly swelling and warmth in the affected area, anti inflammatory meds and ice can help to relieve some of the discomfort.

Some of the more serious conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, constant pain, non healing wounds, and circulation issues such as cold feet, discoloration and constant muscle cramping should be discussed with your doctor. Make sure you are well hydrated and protect your feet while walking around. Decreased sensation makes it difficult to determine where your foot is and what you are stepping on. A moderate to large amount of edema (swelling in the feet or ankles) can be a sign of problems related to your heart, kidney or liver. Having these things checked out can be a life saver.

Now, how do we make our feet feel better. Let’s exercise them, of course.

• Take a can, a cold or warm water bottle or a tennis ball and roll it around under your foot. It is like a mini massage for your feet.

• If you are able to rest your foot on your opposite knee or reach down to your toes (while sitting, of course) use your hand to gently separate your toes. Then rotate the toes. Once they are a little looser try to place your fingers between your toes. The goal is to get all five fingers between the toes at the same time. Ahh! That stretch feel great.

• While sitting, tap your toes up and down. Then tap to the front then to the side. Tap, tap, tap, tap. Focus on lifting those toes high.

• Rotate your ankles in one direction, then the other. Try to write your name in the air with your foot. First name-one foot, last name-other foot.

• Standing or sitting— up and down on your toes. Lift those heels high.

• Standing. Use a chair for support if you need to. Do a runners lunge. One foot in front. Both heels stay on the ground. Bend the front knee. Keep your body upright. Try not to let your front knee bend pass your ankle. If doing correctly you should feel a stretch in the back calf. Hold for a count of 5-10, then switch legs.

If our feet are out of alignment, it affects our whole body. Let’s take care of our feet and take care of ourselves.

Feel free to email me at at any time if you have any questions or call in to 646 558 8656 on Wednesday afternoons from 3-4 if you wish to speak in person.

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