As we age, the movement and structure of the foot, or foot biomechanics, tend to change. Intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles become weaker and foot deformities develop. Some of the results of changing foot biomechanics are easily noticeable.
You may notice that your feet are angled in a certain way. You could have fallen arches. Your shoe size could change, and the shoes themselves could wear out unevenly. Maybe you develop bunions or hammertoes. You might find it difficult to rotate, flex and extend your ankle.
Of course, changing foot biomechanics can also cause chronic pain, numbness, or pins and needles, and not just in the feet. In fact, pain in the knees, hips, back and even the neck can often be traced back to the feet. As a chiropractor, I see this all the time in clinical practice. And this is one of the main reasons why we added podiatry as a service at Natural Healthcare Center.
Force on the feet weakens or damages intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles, which affects how we walk, stand and function. This can have a direct impact on how the rest of the body feels and functions.
But what are these intrinsic and extrinsic muscles, anyway?
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Foot Muscles
Intrinsic muscles are the deeper muscles. Most people don’t know the names of these little guys, but they’re the glue that holds us together. Extrinsic muscles are the outer muscles found on the structure of the body that provide control. These are the beach muscles, like the pectorals, biceps and gluteus maximus.
It’s important to exercise and strengthen both types of muscles in the foot area to restore and maintain proper biomechanics.
If a patient is experiencing foot pain or discomfort, we’ll discuss their history and perform a visual assessment to identify deformities, scars and injuries. Then we’ll have the patient perform basic functional tests to assess movement and balance. We’ll also feel for tenderness in the foot, ankle, calf and knee areas.
If we diagnose problems in the intrinsic and/or extrinsic foot muscles, we’ll typically recommend foot exercises as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Neuromuscular reeducation exercises can correct unhealthy movement patterns, restore proper foot biomechanics, and improve balance, coordination and posture, all while reducing pain and strengthening the foot muscles.
As always, the specific exercises we recommend are based on the individual and their condition, but balance training is usually a safe first step. This might involve standing barefoot on a wobble board with eyes open and closed.
Gripping a towel with the toes in both the seated and standing position is a common exercise for the intrinsic muscles of the feet. Extrinsic muscle exercises often involve stretching to overcome stiffness and poor range of motion, as well as and resistance exercises to build strength and stability.
The human foot is a lot more complex than a heel, a ball, an arch and five little piggies. There are 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments that make up the foot. If these moving parts aren’t working the right way, the entire body can be affected.
No chronic pain should be ignored. If you feel any pain or discomfort in your feet or notice something that doesn’t look right, schedule an appointment at Natural Healthcare Center. We can get to the root cause of the problem and help your entire body feel and function better.