Most people are familiar with all types of tendonitis including the kind that affects your Achilles tendon. There are at least 10 muscles in your lower leg that send off tendons through your ankle to affect the motion of your foot. Wait a second, your podiatrist, a specialist of the lower extremity, just said ‘at least’? Don’t we know how my muscles there are in the body? Of course! Of the muscles in the front of your leg-the shin area, and the muscles in the back of your leg-the calf area, there are two muscles that are absent in a significant portion of the population. There is no need to worry as these absences rarely cause any problems and seldom contribute to any foot deformity. I digress though…..about those stretches…….
We often include stretching and physical therapy in treatment regimes because of the great success they bring. A good portion of foot and ankle problems as well as many other parts of your body are a result of shortened or tight tendons. The muscles of limbs work by contracting when nerve impulses instruct them to. When the contraction occurs without the muscle returning completely to its pre-stretch extension, it can stay in this shortened position. Additionally, tendons tend to lose their water content as we age further complicating the process on a molecular level. Over months and years these contractions can become more severe and lead to biomechanical imbalances. There are instances where neurological disorders cause musculoskeletal contractions and should be thoroughly evaluated and treated by a physician.
For the average person, active or not, including stretching in your daily routine can work wonders to prevent foot and ankle pain. The easiest stretch for return on your time is the classic ‘runner’s stretch’ or wall stretch. Using a wall for support, step forward with one leg and keep the leg in the back straight. Begin to push your heel towards the ground until you feel the stretch in the back of your leg. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds before repeating with the other leg. Repeat a total of three times once or twice a day. This easy stretch will keep your foot functioning properly and preventing problems like equinus or plantar fasciitis.
Until next time, keep your feet happy and healthy Austin!