Is Chiropractic Care Effective for Foot Pain?
Chiropractic for your Feet?
Yes, they’re more important than you’d think.
Is Chiropractic Care Effective for Foot Pain? Over 25% of the body’s bones are in the feet: 26 bones in each, to be exact. Not only are they filled with many bones, but your feet are also the foundation of your body. Like a house’s foundation holds its structure and keeps it standing, proper health and function of the feet and ankles are what will set the rest of your body up for proper movement.
Don’t Overlook Your Foundation
It’s not surprising, then, that you should place a lot of importance on taking care of your feet and ankles. Dr. Kaster, chiropractor at Northwestern Health Sciences University’s Bloomington Clinic, says we often don’t give them the attention and care they deserve.
“The reason I look at the bones of the foot is they need to fit together like the gears of the transmission of your car,” Dr. Kaster explained. “If those gears are not meshing properly, they’re going to grind and it’s going to sound awful and your transmission isn’t going to work right. If the bones of the foot aren’t aligned properly and you’ve got ligamentous instability that appears over a period of time, things morph and change.”
The lower extremities are a complicated system of tendons, ligaments, and muscles—more than a hundred, in fact—which are more intertwined in terms of function than one may think. Muscles split and attach to several others, so if there’s disfunction is one area, it will likely lead to disfunction in another.
One good example is plantar fascia, which extends from the heel to each of the five toes on each foot. When something is off in your feet, it’s not only in your feet where you might feel the pain.
Back Problems? Maybe Your Feet are to Blame.
What does all this interconnectedness mean for you? Pain in other areas of your leg, or even your back or shoulder, could have roots in your feet.
“Oftentimes I’m going to see things gravitating up into the knee, up into the thigh, up into the hip, up into the lower back, to the shoulder. There’s trigger points and things we find all the way up into the spine,” Kaster said. “The nerves are an important part but the muscle is an important part, too.”
Recently, Dr. Kaster treated a patient for back pain. After assessing the patient’s health history, Dr. Kaster found the patient had suffered multiple ankle sprains through sports in his youth that hadn’t properly healed. It turns out, those sprains were the root of the problem.
Ankle sprains are common, with an estimated two million acute ankle sprains happening annually. It’s important, as this patient learned, to make sure everything heals properly after an injury like that—not just until it stops hurting—or it could have lingering effects later.
Compensating for the Problem
When an injury occurs and your body is trying to heal, it will overcompensate in other areas of movement. That can, in turn, often create further problems. Dr. Kaster returned to his car analogy to explain.
“If we have a racecar with a front tire kinked in, we’re going to work it and work it harder,” Kaster explained. “So we’re going to burn more fuel, we’re going to put more pressure on the tire that’s out of its proper position, we’re going to wear it out faster. In your body, when there’s a pain response, there’s going to be compensation patterns; other muscles are going to start being conjured up to try and help that situation. Those muscles are going to fatigue faster.”
Taking Care of Your Feet at Home
Part of Dr. Kaster’s goal with every patient he has, whether young or old, athlete or not, is proper healing and optimal functional performance. In addition to adjustments at a clinic, it’s important to take care of your feet at home, too, including doing any stretching your chiropractor might provide as well as icing an injury. Dr. Kaster suggests freezing a water bottle that you can roll your foot over for efficient icing. Healing properly is key to avoiding further injury down the road.
“With somebody who has a chronic injury, the bones are not in their proper positions, so those muscles are continually firing, expending extra energy, and causing the body to work inefficiently,” Kaster said. “So that’s why we do muscle work to try to loosen those areas up, re-educate them, adjust them, and then give them stretching to help manage it.”