Ankle/Foot Pain

When your feet hurt, you hurt all over.  This adage seems not only culturally accurate, but structurally and energetically true as well.  As the architectural foundations for the human frame, the feet play a vital role in providing a platform of support for upright structure.  Postural distortions emanating from the feet can be insidious and commonly overlooked sources of pain and dysfunction throughout the body.  Indeed, the feet are tattletales, observed Ida Rolf: "Every imbalance at higher levels shows unmistakably in the feet and ankles."

Like the knee, the ankle is a hinge joint.  Like a door hinge, it works best in a single plane of movement, providing plantar flexion and dorsiflexion.  While the ankle and foot are separate anatomical entities, considering them together honors their structural and functional interdependence.  Together they provide a stable platform of support.  When the foot loses its structural integrity and the ankle loses its functional capacity, soft tissue pain and distortion may appear throughout the body.

Manual therapists who comprehensively analyze posture and gait commonly see the link between collapsed arches and knee, hip and (especially) low back pain.

In the vicinity of the ankle joint, the tendons of the leg muscles are bound down by localized thickenings of the fascia known as retinaculum.  Retinaculum comes from Latin, meaning a brace or halter, and that is precisely the function it performs at the ankle.

When external forces imposed upon the foot exceed the body's level of structural integrity, the result is symptomatic joint stress, micro-tearing of soft tissues, and the beginning of serial distortion and kinetic breakdown.  Tissue repair cannot keep up with the perpetuating strain factors of micro-trauma, overload and fatigue.  Walking, the uniquely human function, and most vital exercise activity, now becomes a perpetuating factor in the spiral of dysfunction, pain and altered biomechanics, including:

  • Arch collapse
  • Stress on the Achilles tendon
  • Stress on the plantar fascia
  • Weakening of the intrinsic foot muscles
  • Foot tendons and ligaments are stressed
  • Misalignment and subluxation of the foot bones is common
  • Calluses may develop on the foot due to altered gait patterns
  • The hinge function of the ankle is restricted
  • Groin and pelvic muscles are strained
  • The pelvis corkscrews
  • The sacrum is unleveled
  • The spine assumes abnormal compensatory curves
  • Postural distortions become manifest in the upper body

Therapeutic massage can play a vital role in restoring proper functioning of the feet and ankles, helping to restore the solid base of support you have come to rely on.

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Copyright © Janet Lawlor, BCTMB