Preventing Foot and Ankle Injuries

Wrapping or bracing the foot and ankle is an extremely effective way to restore inflammation and sliding surfaces to the ankle joint, forefoot and heel. When wrapping for treatment of a swollen or sprained ankle begin near the toes and cover the entire foot, maintaining 50% tension in the wrap itself. When wrapping for sliding surface dysfunction and improving ankle range-of-motion, the entire foot does not require banding. Instead, focus attention on restricted areas of the ankle joint and heel. Maintain 75% tension in the wrap and force the foot through a full range-of-motion. When managing inflammation wrap the forefoot and up the leg. Ensure the ankle can move fluidly through as much range-of-motion as possible when banded. Bracing is an extremely effective alternative to wrapping and often provides more support and breathability to the foot and ankle. When treating for inflammation seek a brace that provides proper compression and fits anatomically correct. Cold therapy is a second modality of treatment, and while only a handful of products feature this option, the combination of compression and cold therapy is extremely effective at resolving foot and ankle injuries and developing conditions without the need for more invasive treatment.

The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, from the metatarsal to the heel. When the fascia becomes inflamed and or stiff it causes tremendous pain and discomfort.

Plantar surface ball exercises is one way to help combat the dreaded foot disorder plantar fasciitis. Ball exercises can help restore suppleness to plantar surfaces by placing qualitative pressure up and down the length of the fascia ligament. Consistent execution improves acute foot pain as well as foot and ankle range-of-motion. Rolling the foot over a ball with zero intention or purpose will be ineffective so take 1 to 2 minutes to traverse the length of the ligament across the base of the foot. Standing increases the weight and pressure over the ball and helps roll out the ropey tissue. By rolling, a pressure wave is created, this wave can cause the foot to contract and relax the fascia ligament so that pain spots become less inflamed and the skin slides and glides naturally again.

Although there are many mechanisms that can trigger plantar surface problems, like posterior tibialis and caught nerve endings, plantar fasciitis is a catchall that describes and accounts for most pain experienced on the bottom of the foot. In fact, 70% of all podiatrists see patients for what they describe as heel pain and plantar fasciitis. Plantar fascia problems are common amongst athletes and runners, especially those that run barefoot and practice pose-centric running, as well as people that are overweight, have flat feet or collapsed arches and those whose feet pronate.

Another effective foot mobilization technique that can be used in conjunction with the plantar surface ball roll is the mid-foot roll. In the middle of the foot there is a large joint responsible for giving the foot arch support. When this joint becomes knotted and stiff, either from bad foot mechanics, overuse or improper running technique and or barefoot running, it limits the ability to externally rotate and create a good arch. This technique improves neutral foot position and plantar fasciitis problems associated with mid-sole tissue inflammation or arch pain.

Another exercise technique, unlike forefoot mobilization, which is more pinpointed, is the roller forefoot strumming which focuses on the entire arch. Although less targeted this movement is a global technique that captures all structural layers of the foot. To maximize result, collapse the foot over the roller in an attempt to peel off the edge of the roller with the foot.

Muscles of the calf support lower extremity functionality and are tasked with serious responsibility during even basic movement like walking. Athletes and those persons that are highly athletic, but not professionals, take an average of 10,000 steps per day walking. That equates to 5,000 loads per calf and 70,000 over the course of a week. This estimate does not account for additional activities like stair climbing, running, crossfit, working out and playing sports. Bad foot positioning and improper footwear can compromise calf positioning during activity, which in turn creates an accumulation of tightness within the calf muscles. This causes a state of constant stiffness in the calf and heel cords which can lead to injury.

If the ankle joint has been compromised and full range-of-motion is abated, an open foot position is required to compensate. This means that during movement the knee will be open and the ankle collapsed. This will likely lead to an injury as the foot lacks proper extension and or dorsiflexion. It is a natural reaction to turn the foot outward to increase the range-of-motion problem and buffer the issue. This counter mechanism, although a natural reaction, leads to a myriad of serious foot and ankle problems including; Achilles tendonitis, sprains, strains other ankle problems as well as full blown Achilles tendon ruptures and bone spurs within the heel of the foot. To avoid this requires full ankle range-of-motion and good positioning within the ankle, making certain that large drivers of the ankle joint are full range and supple. Although the primary issue usually stems from within the heel cords, tightness is transmitted upstream. The gastrocnemius, which is a powerful lower-leg muscle that makes up the calf, is responsible for controlling the ankle. If those tissues get stiff, ankle and knee pain will follow.

There is a lot muscle controlling the feet and the tissue runs through small space so various techniques can be utilized to improve ankle pain and range-of-motion, calf tightness and knee pain as well as neutral and straight foot positions. The more uncomfortable the mobilization, the more change will be seen, felt and realized.