So many clients come to me with pain or issues originating in their feet that I always say, "Thank God He gave us two of them!" Our feet have a huge impact on our whole body, but most people don’t give them a second thought until a problem arises.
Anatomically, the fascia in the foot is connected to the calf, the hamstring, the glutes, the low back, the thoracic spine, the neck, and all the way up over the head to the eyebrows. If you drew a line connecting all of these spots, you would be connecting what Thom Meyers, the author of Anatomy Trains, calls the Superficial Back Line.
How can I relieve my foot pain?
Let's start with a few basics. One of these things, or a combination of them, may be the secret sauce to relieving your foot pain.
If you've been on your feet a lot, resting and elevating your feet can help reduce inflammation and ease discomfort.
Applying a cold pack or ice to the painful area for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
3. Over-the-counter pain relievers
Non-prescription medicines like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help relieve foot pain. However, these should be used responsibly and only as directed.
Wearing shoes that are comfortable and provide good support can make a big difference. You might consider shoes with a wide toe box, arch support, and a cushioned sole. Orthotic inserts can also be helpful.
5. Stretching and strengthening exercises
Some types of foot pain can be eased with regular stretching and strengthening exercises. For example, exercises designed to stretch and strengthen the Achilles tendon and the muscles in your feet and lower legs can help if you have plantar fasciitis.
6. Weight management
Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the amount of stress on your feet.
7. Physical Therapy
A physical therapist can provide you with a personalized exercise regimen that targets the specific areas causing your foot pain.
Massage can improve circulation, stimulate muscles, reduce pain, and promote relaxation. You can do this yourself or hire a professional.
It's important to know the cause of your foot pain in order to effectively treat it. The cause could be anything from a simple sprain to a more complex issue like plantar fasciitis or a stress fracture. It's always best to consult a healthcare provider for a diagnosis if your foot pain is severe or if these basic self-care measures don't help.
What are the different types of foot pain?
Foot pain can be a result of different conditions that affect various parts of the foot. Here are some common types of foot pain and their causes:
1. Heel Pain
This could be due to plantar fasciitis, which is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. Another cause could be Achilles tendinitis, an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon, the band of tissue that connects the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone.
2. Arch Pain
This can result from a condition called flat feet or fallen arches, where the arch of the foot is flat and the entire foot touches the floor when standing. It could also be due to plantar fasciitis.
3. Ball of Foot Pain (Metatarsalgia)
This is often caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes, high-impact activities, or underlying conditions. Morton's neuroma, which involves a thickening of the tissue around one of the nerves leading to your toes, is another potential cause.
4. Toe Pain
This could be from ingrown toenails, bunions (a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe), hammer toe (a deformity where the toe bends or curls downward instead of pointing forward), or gout (a type of arthritis that usually affects the big toe).
5. Side of the Foot Pain
This might be due to an ankle sprain or a fracture, or conditions like cuboid syndrome, where the cuboid bone is dislocated.
6. Top of Foot Pain
This could be due to extensor tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendons that run along the top of the foot, or a stress fracture in one of the five metatarsal bones that run along the top of the foot.
7. Pain in the Back of the Foot
This is often due to Achilles tendinitis or bursitis, an inflammation of the small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the Achilles tendon.
Remember that foot pain can be a complex issue, and these are just potential causes. Anyone experiencing persistent foot pain should consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
The Back Line Fascia Test
One way to experience this connection is to perform a self-scan with a Back-Line Fascia Test. Start by bending over and touching your toes. You might not reach them, but that’s okay. When you’re down there, do a body scan. Ask yourself a few questions:
Where are you tight or restricted?
Where are you flexible?
Do your hands drape over evenly?
Are you feeling any discomfort?
Now, come up from this position and move to the Foot Release Work described below.
For the purposes of the facial test, you only want to release one foot at a time. After you’ve completed the release work on the first foot, you redo the Back-Line Fascia Test.
Upon redoing your body scan, you might notice your tightness, discomfort, and/or restrictions on the side you did the release work are gone or drastically decreased.
What might be more noticeable is the drape of your hands.
The side you did the release work on will be much closer to the floor than the side that you have not released yet.
This little experiment proves the existence of Thom Meyers Superficial Back Line.
After completing the whole process of the scan and release work on one side of the body, move to the other foot.
Foot Release Work
Draw three imaginary lines down your foot, with all three starting at the heel and moving towards the toes.One is traveling down the middle of the foot; one goes along the inside of the foot; and one goes along the outer edge of the foot.
Grab a small ball. I like to use a foot rubz ball, but a small golf ball or a tennis ball will work. The foot rubz ball and golf ball will be more accurate, but also a little more tender to the fascia in the foot versus using a tennis ball.
Start by placing the ball at the heel on the middle line. Gently unweight the standing leg (this is the leg that does not have a ball under it) and put at least 75% of your weight into the ball. Repeat this unweighting three times.
Then move the ball slightly forward towards the toes, staying on the middle line. Repeat the unweighting movement three times in this spot.
Continue to move the ball up the middle line, unweighting three times in each spot and hitting at least four spots along the line.
After you have completed this with the middle line, begin doing it on the inside line and the outside line. Upon completing all three lines, redo your Back-Line Fascia Test.
Upon retesting, you might notice the arm on the same side you released the foot hangs much longer than the side you have not released. You might also feel a little looser in the low back or hamstrings. What might be most obvious is how different the foot itself feels.
Now it’s time to repeat all of this on the second foot!
I know this little foot release program is very time-consuming. Therefore, it’s hard to get people to do this too often. I would recommend this routine two to three times a week in the beginning if you are trying to get rid of plantar fasciitis or even low back pain.
But on a daily basis, I recommend something that is a little quicker and simpler. As soon as I get out of the shower, I put lotion or oil on my feet with the intention of giving them a little love. You can massage the sole, then split each toe forward and back. Then interlace your fingers between each toe to laterally spread the web of the toes. This little extra attention to your feet will help you stand a little taller!
With a little time and TLC, your feet will feel better in no time!
The Mayo Clinic's website has an extensive collection of health-related information, including a section dedicated to foot pain. Here is a link to their page on foot pain: Foot pain
Physical Therapy Studies:
- "Effectiveness of Manual Therapy and Stretching for Plantar Fasciitis" - JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL THERAPY SCIENCE This study shows the potential benefits of manual therapy and stretching exercises for the treatment of plantar fasciitis.
- "Effectiveness of Foot Biomechanical Orthoses to Relieve Patients Suffering from Plantar Fasciitis: Is the Reduction of Pain Related to Change in Neural Strategy?" - BIOMED RESEARCH INTERNATIONAL This study suggests that orthotic devices can help relieve foot pain, potentially by changing the neural strategy used to control the foot's motion.
Cheryl completed her Pilates certification in 2002 then her Level 1 GYROTONIC® certification while working with Madeline Black at Studio M in Sonoma, CA. Since moving to Austin to 2004, Cheryl has become level 2 GYROTONIC® trained as well as assisted Madeline in teaching Pilates education courses from California to New Orleans. In 2009 she completed her GYROKINESIS® certification in Germany with Juliu Horvath, certifications on the specialized GYROTONIC® Archway, Leg Extension Unit, Gyrotoner and Jump Stretch Board, as well as becoming a Certified GYROTONIC® Pre-Trainer. Cheryl completed a Pilates mentor program in 2011 with Madeline Black offered by Balance Body University coined “Passing the Torch” and in the summer of 2011, Cheryl and Stephen launched a Pilates Teacher Training Program at CORE. Cheryl passed her PMA Exam and has studied the GYROTONIC® Therapeutic Application courses with German Physiotherapist Paul Horvath and Uwe Herbsreit. In 2014, Cheryl completed the requirments to become a GYROTONIC® Master Trainer and is now able to teach the GYROTONIC® Level 1 Foundation Courses as well as all updates for current certified GYROTONIC® trainers.