This series was first published in 2014 for Arizona Dance e-Star, a publication of the Arizona Dance Coalition. In this series of articles you’ll learn how to treat low back pain… hip and groin pain… knee and leg pain… and ankle and foot pain. In Part 4 I’ll talk about caring for your feet: problems you may run into, and how you can fix or at least improve those problems, and give yourself a happier support system!
Like your other parts, your feet cannot be separated from the rest of you. Hips influence knees and feet, and feet influence knees and hips.
If you are a dancer you probably have very strong, flexible feet. If you are a dancer, especially on point, your feet probably hurt. I can remember as a young ballet student that my toes were black and blue, bleeding, nails were falling off and they hurt. No amount of lamb’s wool prevented these conditions. If you are a modern dancer or a dancer who needs only minimum foot covering then you probably don’t have this problem.
However, look at your feet! Most people don’t give their feet a second thought until they start hurting, or swelling. Then they use band aids in the form of: compresses, corn plasters, cushions, toe separators, toe aligners ad infinitum. Look at your feet. Are they strong and flexible? Do they take you where you want to go? Do they serve you well? If not, maybe you haven’t served them well.
The Long Second Toe
This condition is hereditary and is one of the few things you can blame on your parents. The long second toe has two aliases: “Morton’s toe,” named after Dr. Morton who first understood its enormous influence on the rest of the body as well as the feet; and “The classic Greek foot,” given by Dr. Janet Travell who noticed that the people who posed for all the ancient Greek statuary must have had such feet.
No matter what you call it, if you have it you will also have the potential to have bunions, hammertoes, calluses, aching legs, sprained ankles and a balance problem.
To find out if you have a “long second toe,” don’t just look at your toes as they may all be even. With one hand bend your toes down and with a felt marker, circle the first joints of the first two toes. If the joint of the second toe is farther forward in your foot than that of the big toe, you have a long second toe, no matter how far the tips reach. The placement of the joint is what counts. Make sure to look at both feet as one may be long and the other not. If this is the case note the difference in your feet regarding calluses and so forth.
The Good Foot vs the Long Second Toe Foot
The “good” foot lands on its heel, and as the weight is shifted forward onto the front of the foot, it lands on the ball of the foot just behind the big toe. This provides a solid tripod, a well-balanced base for the column of the leg, above.
The foot sporting the long second toe is different. From its landing gear, the heel, the foot drops forward onto the joint of the long second toe, which is in the middle of the metatarsal arch. Since these feet are not tripods but knife edges, the ankles are being stressed, the knees are being stressed and so are the hips. And if this is your foot it has been going on since you started walking. On the feet of people who have this condition and must wear shoes, especially tight shoes with heels, there is usually a callus at the point where the front of the foot strikes and another on the outside of the big toe where it constantly grabs for balance, and a hammertoe, or bent second toe. And the start of a bunion. If you walk behind a woman with heels and a long second toe you will note she teeters laterally with every step.
Buy a pair of innersoles and some thick adhesive mole skin. They sit side by side at your local pharmacy. First, peel off the backing and then cut out a circle about the size of a quarter and stick it to the bottom of the sole. It should be stuck right on top of the circle over the ball of the foot behind the big toe. Cut a second circle about the size of a nickel and stick it onto the first. Put the inner soles, pads down, in your shoes. Now you have a stable tripod base. If you are a barefoot dancer, you can stick the circles directly on your foot and use electrical tape to bind it on while dancing. You will notice that your balance will be better and your turns easier.
If you have a long second toe but haven’t acquired the side effects yet, go barefoot as much as possible and use the pad and / or the innersole to give stability to your foot.
Plantar Faciitis and Other Dreadful Diagnosis
If you catch it early, almost any muscle problem is easier to fix. So at the very first sign of a problem, work your Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy® trigger points and you will be successful 95% of the time… if it is muscle related. If there really is pathology, it won’t work.
Over the years, almost every diagnosis and condition concerning the foot and lower leg has walked, or rather limped, into my office. Heel spurs, tarsal tunnel, gout, shin splints, sprained ankles, swollen ankles, weak ankles, turned in feet, turned out feet…and the dreaded Plantar Faciitis. In each case, the Myotherapy treatment either totally eliminated the symptoms or greatly alleviated them.
If you have a foot or ankle problem, first treat the hips and upper legs as shown in the previous articles. Then treat the lower legs, being especially thorough by doing extra lines and extra points along the lines. Many of the muscles in the lower leg run over the ankle and serve as a stirrup under the foot.
Not long ago a young woman came to me for back pain, but when I took her history she mentioned that she also had plantar fasciitis and wore a brace each night to keep her calf muscle stretched. I quipped that she might not have plantar fasciitis when she left.
After treating her low back pain (which in her case involved the hamstrings), I continued down to the back of her lower leg. It was very tight and had lots of trigger points. I followed this with treatment to the medial, lateral and anterior muscles and then lastly the bottom of the foot and, of course, the appropriate stretches.
I always have my patients get up and “try out your body” following the treatment. She said her back pain was gone. I asked about her plantar fasciitis. She kept walking around the room as if she were trying to find it.
When you have pain and you’ve been to a doctor who has ruled out ruptured this or broken that, then figure it is muscles with trigger points and that YOU can help yourself.
Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy® for Your Lower Leg
Treat the back of the lower leg as described in the article last month. Add some extra points and extra lines for good measure.
By now you are almost an expert at finding and treating trigger points.
To treat the entire lower leg, follow the diagrams: #5 #6 and #7.
Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy® for The Feet
Now for the feet. There are four (yes 4) layers of muscles on the bottom of the foot. And they only really get exercised if you are barefoot. The shoes of today turn the foot into a hoof which means your foot muscles never really get a workout.
Rules For Feet:
• Go barefoot as much as possible.
• Don’t run on the road, run on the trail.
• Dance on a wooden floor with spring, not on one with cement beneath it.
• Dance modern, jazz and anything barefoot. Don’t go for aerobic dance with shoes and repetitive movements.
Trigger points anywhere in the foot are apt to be very tender. To treat these points use your finger or knuckle. To save your own fingers you can also use a pencil with a large eraser or even the more rounded end of a Sharpie® pen. Watch your partners face and you will know when you have found the points.
Follow your Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy® trigger point work with exercises for the lower leg, ankle and foot (Figure #9). Don’t forget to turn on the music.
There is nothing so wonderful as a foot massage. So if you have the chance, take it. Otherwise you can always learn to do your own. Pain Erasure the Bonnie Prudden Way has a whole section on foot massage along with extra exercises for tired feet. When your feet feel goooood the rest of you says “Ahhhhhhh.”
Next month we will learn about IMMEDIATE MOBILIZATION: what do you do if you sprain your ankle and have to dance the next day.
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®. Drawings by Bonnie Prudden.