The foot has 26 bones, 144 ligaments, and enough muscles to move them all. These all have to move well in order to not experience foot pain. When things don’t move well, pain is often the result. I am going to cover a few of the common injuries that I see in my practice. These are not all that I treat, but will give you an idea of what can be accomplished with osteopathic manipulation of the foot.
In approximately 1990, I was standing on a ladder with my feet ten or so feet off the ground. I was attempting to close a window when the ladder slipped and I rode it to the ground still standing on the rung. I landed standing up on the same rung I was standing on when I was hammering. I had the wind knocked out of me, but was in my 20’s and mostly indestructible. I shook it off, realized I did not break anything, and went about my life. I knew nothing of osteopathy at that time. Ten years later, when I started osteopathic medical school, my feet would ache, I could no longer run vey far, and I started to get worried. I spurred me to learn about the feet so that I could understand what was going on with mine (and hopefully get them better). It has been an amazing journey (and my feet are back to normal).
The simple foot problems are plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, bunion (bunionette), and heel spurs. Along with fractures, these are many of the common foot issues. Let’s start with plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is on the bottom of the foot. It’s “job” is to precent the arch of the foot from spreading too far. When the bones/ligaments of the foot are working well, stepping down loads the arch, bringing the foot up unloads it. If the bones/ligaments down work correctly, then stepping down loads the arch and can move it farther than is is meant to, stretching the plantar fascia and causing pain. If removing the force does not remove the load on the arch and allow it to return to normal, pain is the result. We call that plantar fasciitis. I have found that by simply resorting the function of the arch and its bones, the pain of plantar fasciitis is a thing of the past without injections of steroids or surgery.
Morton’s neuroma is a swelling of the end of a nerve. Mechanically, it occurs when the metatarsal bones of the feet get too close together, crowd the muscles between them and irritate the nerve. This nerve then swells and becomes irritated. The irritation lowers the firing threshold of the nerve (makes it super sensitive) and Morton’s neuroma is the result. The treatment is straightforward if you understand the mechanics. Releasing the tension in the muscles that go between the bones of the forefoot allows the metatarsals to return to their normal position. This removes the tension in the muscles and the nerve gets to relax. This removes the pain within hours, and, as long as the foot remains working, it does not return.
A bunion (on the big toe side), and a bunionette (on the little toe side) is most commonly the result of poor footwear. If found early in their development, simple exercises can return the foot to normal. If found later, then correcting the forces that caused them can return motion to normal. This may not give a cosmetic result that looks like it did at birth (that may require surgery), but normal motion can be restored. I have had great success at returning normal motion to these problems with simple osteopathic manipulation.
Heel spurs are a result of Wolff’s Law. That states that tissues in the body will move and grow based on the forces place upon them. In a heel spur, the plantar fascia (which attaches at the heel) can pull on the heel bone (the calcaneus) and cause it to literally “drag” a portion of the bone with it. This is the cause of a heel spur. This can be treated with an understanding of Wolff’s Law (remove the force and the bone returns to normal. This can be accomplished with osteopathic manipulation and/or prolo therapy to the area. The pain can be removed and the person’s life returned to normal.
I hope this small bit of information on some common causes of foot pain has helped you. If I can be of further assistance, please call the office and make an appointment.