Thursday, September 2, 2010

Love and Care for Your Feet

Most everyone has at least one big toe with limited mobility. Whether it is due to improper body mechanics while walking, wearing ill-fitting shoes, dancing on pointe or any number of other causes, it is a very common complaint.

Most complaints of foot pain aren’t from a sudden onset. Occasionally they will be the result of an injury, but mostly they are the result of chronic misuse, abuse or neglect. The only way to reverse this is to tune it up. No surgery, pill, shot or brace can permanently offset the damage of improper body mechanics.

The big toe is called the Hallux. Two very common hallux complaints are hallux rigidus and hallux valgus. The former is a lack of ability to freely move the big toe joint through a full range of motion

and the latter (commonly called a “bunion”) is when the big toe is out of alignment and juts at an angle, away from the midline of the body towards the other toes.

Both of these maladies are quite common and can be very painful.

Today I watched as physical therapist, Shmuel Tatz treated a client with hallux rigidus. She had been a gifted, young ballerina who was dancing on pointe from the age of 11. Now in her 40’s she was in great pain and barely able to move the big toe on her left foot. As part of her treatment, Shmuel rubbed circels around the metatarsalphalangeal joint nestled between the heels of his hands. Then he stabilized her heel as he pulled on the phalange. Next, he ran his thumb down the length of the dorsal aspect of her foot between the first and second metatarsals. He gripped tightly on her heel, paying special attention to a specific point near the lateral malleolus and asked her to dorsiflex her ankle, which she did although it made her wince with pain. (She later told me that she, like Shmuel, was a PhD in Physical Therapy and that she revered him and trusted him completely.) He also mobilized her ankle joint and pulled on her foot to provide traction.

Since maladies or deformities in the foot always translate into problems elsewhere in the body, he also had to give a lot of attention to her neck and upper back, too. When one is unable to properly use the feet, there must be compensations in the body somewhere. Our bodies are designed to function in beautiful synchronicity, so when one part goes awry it can have a devastating ripple effect. The average human takes about 8000 to 10,000 steps per day. So you can imagine that if the alignment is just a little bit off, it won’t be immediately noticeable, but after a while, all of those steps are going to add up to pain.

Shmuel told me that her treatment had been going on for a while and that she was getting relief but that it was slow-going. Since she had been misusing her feet for so many of her formative years with absolutely no treatment or physical therapy for them, they slowly and gradually developed this disorder. The onset was gradual and so the treatment is not an instant fix. The shame was that, in an effort to exploit her gift, she was encouraged to dance on pointe, but she was never given any formal hands-on care to help prevent the onset of problems like this later in life.

A big problem with the way most professionals commonly approach the hallux rigidus and valgus is that they look for quick fix. They don’t want to do the hands on work. Most podiatrists or osteopaths will either suggest cortisone shots, orthotics or surgery. None of these options address the issue, which will inevitably return until it is addressed properly.

We live in a society that tends to be very short-sighted and instantly gratified. One of the unfortunate upshots of this is that we undergo senseless, useless and needless surgeries that are not only expensive, but can create other problems by cutting through healthy tissue and creating scar tissue.

They also seem to work for only a few years. Within five years, most people who have undergone surgeries for hallux issues are back, complaining that the situation has returned.

Body Tuning is a way to get real, lasting relief. The body needs to be re-educated. And in many cases the client also needs to be re-educated; maybe about purchasing footwear that fits properly, or maybe about proper body mechanics during walking or another activity. The movements and mobilizations that Shmuel was performing on his client’s foot are getting into the tissue and tuning the body. They are allowing the tissues to reorganize organically, which will end up being a more permanent fix. When the body is sufficiently reminded of how it was intended to function, it returns to normal function.

Before you agree to corrosive cortisone shots, invasive surgeries or crutches like orthotics, first have your feet Tuned. Visit Shmuel before you agree to any of these barbaric and ineffective practices. If you live in New York, you are fortunate in that you have access to a gifted expert in the workings of the body.

Leonardo DaVinci said, “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” Each foot has 28 bones and 33 joints. This tells us that there is meant to be a lot of articulation within the foot itself. There are 19 major muscles and 107 ligaments which tells us that they are well supported. (Feet were invented way before shoes were.) Each foot also has 250,000 sweat glands and over 7000 nerve endings. They bear the weight of your body all day and take you everywhere you go. The support that they offer sets the stage for all of your bones to function as they were intended. If you take a little bit of care, they will serve you pain-free for your lifetime.

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