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Your Feet: Handle With Care

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Healthcare professionals tend to spend most of their working time on their feet, and when their feet hurt they often ignore the pain due to their hectic schedules. Podiatrist Lawrence Santi, DPM, says this is a mistake because discomfort in the feet, if disregarded, can lead to further pain in other parts of the body. “When foot function is compromised, ankle, knee, lower-back, shoulder and neck function is also affected,” he said.

“High arches, for example, cause foot rigidity that compromises the arch of the foot, weakening the ankle joints and affecting the knees, leg calves and the lower spine in adverse ways. While flexible flat feet (fallen arches) is a pathological foot condition that can occur in older healthcare workers and lead to other foot problem, such as bunions, hammertoes (toes that are bent and overlap), painful foot lesions, large calluses and heel spurs.”

Additionally, according to Jerome McAndrews, DC, spokesperson for the National Chiropractic Heritage Association, weakened feet can cause a loss of joint movement that creates a shift in the body’s weight and creates a slight curvature of the spine. "The spine is like a mobile hanging from a ceiling hook,” he explained. “After an injury, the spine will

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continue to move as it always does but, when it comes to rest, its parts will be in the wrong place because it has accommodated itself for lost movement by creating pressure on joints. Joint pressure can cause problems in the back, knees and feet.”

Although foot pain is not uncommon, it is also not normal and should never be ignored. The primary causes, experts say, stem from two potential sources: structural or mechanical deficits. "Structural deficits refer to the body’s skeleton; mechanical deficits refer to its muscles,” said physical therapist Michael Yass. “The majority of foot conditions I treat are caused by muscle imbalance, weak or tight muscles, or muscles that are in spasm. Overworked muscles cause pain, burning and cramping to occur.”

Clinicians do a lot of standing and walking, Yass pointed out, but they usually fail to get good walking exercise because they stop to care for patients along the way. “When we walk, we push off on our toes to maintain a forward center of gravity, and we use muscle groups in the anterior part of our bodies more than we do the posterior part of our bodies,” he said. “Weakened back body muscles cause the pelvis to push forward and body weight is not distributed evenly. When this happens muscle imbalance occurs.”

Thus, it can be said that even busy healthcare workers who are constantly on the go are not getting the proper exercise for their feet. Ankle strains, for example, occur when pelvic and hip abductor muscles are weakened and do not function correctly. “Exercises to strengthen these muscle groups need to be instituted,” Yass recommended. “This (will) keep those muscles strong and in good working order.”

“Pain can originate in the feet and move up into the back, or vice versa, added chiropractor Mark Sanna, DC. “(Clinicians) must practice as workplace athletes. They need to keep their bodies in good physical condition and should do non-work related physical exercise. Walk to improve the circulatory system, for example, do weight bearing exercises to improve muscle, joint and bone health."

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