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Massage Today
June, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 06

Dealing with Painful Foot Injuries, Part 2

By Ben Benjamin, PhD and Karen Ball, LMT

In part one of this two-part series, published in the April issue, we began talking about foot pain and discussed several different injuries that affect that area of the body.

Now we're going to move on to give you practical tips for soothing the feet. (Remember that any recurrent, persistent or severe pain should first be thoroughly assessed and checked out by a physician.) We invite you to share this information with clients who suffer from aching feet, as well as using it yourself. With the amount of standing we do in our line of work, many of us could benefit greatly from better foot care.

Self-Care Routine for Aching Feet

Many people have reduced or completely eliminated their foot pain by following a dedicated self-care routine. Below are some key actions that get results.

First of all, rest. Stop doing whatever it is that aggravates your pain. If a certain pair of shoes causes you pain, stop wearing them. If daily runs on pavement end in pain, find another way to exercise. Listen to your body's cues and discontinue any activity that interferes with the healing process.

You should also consider ice massage. This is a simple way to reduce inflammation. Fill a small paper cup with water and freeze it. Gently move the cup over and around the injured area, stopping when the tissue begins to feel numb. Keep the motion constant, so you're not holding the cup stationary in any one spot.

foot injuries - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark You might also try stretching. Start by stretching your toes. Bring all your toes into extension and then grasp one toe and stretch it slowly into full extension for a moment or two. Do this with each toe four or five times. Next, take each toe and bring it into flexion all the way. Then grasp two toes at a time and gently stretch them apart for a few seconds. Repeat with all the toes. Then go on to stretch all the joints in the foot and ankle, the extrinsic and intrinisic muscles of the feet, the muscles of the lower legs, the hamstrings and the quadriceps. Use a towel, rope or stretching strap if you need to.

Another important step is strengthening. To strengthen the intrinsic muscles of your foot, toss a dozen large marbles on the floor, sit in a chair, and pick up a marble with your toes. Then cross that leg over the other, tailor-fashion, and remove the marble. Repeat until you have picked up all the marbles and then switch to your other foot and pick up all the marbles again.

It is also important to develop better footwear habits. Many of our foot-related woes are caused, either directly or indirectly, by the shoes we wear. Consider taking some of the these simple steps:

  • Change your shoes throughout the day, so as not to tire individual muscles; call on a variety of muscles to share the load.
  • Explore alternatives to high heels. These shoes do more damage to the body than we have time to discuss in this article. If you wear them frequently, they may well be the primary cause of your foot pain.
  • Replace your shoes when they begin to deteriorate and the sole or heel becomes uneven. This is particularly important for athletic shoes.
  • Always wear shoes on ceramic, concrete or wood floors. This includes middle-of-the-night jaunts to the bathroom. Flip-flops don't count; adult feet require arch support to counteract years of gravitational force.
  • Look into purchasing Yoga/Pilates sandals to wear around the house. They spread and lengthen the digits and metatarsals.

If you live near a beach and take barefoot walks, you can invite the muscles of your feet to strengthen in a healthy, natural way. Walking or gently running on sand is excellent for the health of your feet. You can also establish morning and evening routines for your foot health. Before getting out of bed in the morning, remember to stretch and massage your feet. Then, when you're relaxing in the evening, try a combination of the following:

  • Spread your toes. Foam pedicure separators or gel toe separators do the trick.
  • Roll your foot on a footsie roller. This will elongate and stretch the tissue on the plantar surface.
  • Soak your feet in warm water and ¼ cup of sea salt or Epsom salts, and then give yourself a short reflexology session (as described below) before going to bed.

Evening Reflexology Protocol

Reflexology is a non-invasive complementary modality involving the use of alternating pressure applied to reflexes in the feet. Reflexology reduces tension in the muscle tissue and improves circulation of the blood, lymph and neurons, resulting in reduced pain and better functioning.

Following your foot soak, fully extend, flex and separate your toes. Take each stretch as far as you can. Invert and evert your foot. Range-of-motion exercises will increase blood flow to the feet, loosen up the joints and relax the connective tissue.

Use a knuckle to "walk" the plantar surface of the calcaneus. Stop on any sensitive points and apply slow micro-friction to break up adhesions of excess nerve and/or scar tissue that has been laid down in response to trauma.

Use your thumb to apply rhythmical, alternating pressure to the remaining plantar surface of the foot. Imagine your thumb as a little inchworm, taking small "steps" over the entire surface of the foot. Stop on sensitive points and apply micro-friction.

Use your fingers to walk the dorsal side of the foot and work on any points that get your attention.

Finish with ice massage, followed by massage with a lubricant made with unprocessed castor oil (which has proven analgesic properties ), infused with organic essential oils that have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. (Examples include German chamomile, peppermint, ravintsara, helichrysum, and lavender.)

Drink some water, turn off the light and go to sleep! Remember to wear footwear with arch support if you get up in the middle of the night and stretch your feet and calves before rising in the morning.

Remember, when you treat your feet well, they tend to return the favor.

Click here for more information about Ben Benjamin, PhD.

Karen Ball, LMT, Certified Reflexologist and Aromatherapist has been working as a manual therapist since 1983. Through the Academy of Ancient Reflexology, Karen offers the 315-hour Therapeutic Hand & Foot Reflexology Professional Certification, and a growing roster of weekend workshops and classes in conventional reflexology, Thai reflexology and allied subjects. For more information, visit


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