Whole Health is about having the information you need for your self-care and for preventing problems before they occur. One of the most overlooked sources of information about how our health is expressing itself through our body is the amazing communication our feet provide us. Often ignored as just having to do with the shoes we wear or with “standing on our feet” all day, the condition and communication from our feet is something we should all pay better attention to.
"You can detect everything from diabetes to nutritional deficiencies just by examining the feet," says Jane Andersen, DPM, president of the American Association of Women Podiatrists and a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Some facts about feet: Our two feet contain 25% of our body's bones, and each foot contains a total of 33 joints, over 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments; and countless nerves and blood vessels that connect or communicate with the heart, spine, and brain.
When we develop various foot discomfort we can experience unexpected health problems. When we have pain we often move less and begin to gain weight, or we can start structurally using our body in a way that leads to imbalances, increased falls and possibly breaking bones. Pain or discomfort in our feet is our body’s communication to us that we need to pay attention to our foot function and health.
The American Podiatric Medical Association reports that 20% of the population in the United States has one foot problem annually. Conditions such as flat feet, having a hammertoe, developing plantar fasciitis, painful bunions or other conditions, can cause a lot of pain and overcompensation in your feet and to the rest of the body. Healthy feet are the foundation of a healthy body. Our feet affect our whole body and here are some of the common ways that occurs.
Back and Joint Pain
With foot issues we often change the way are walking to avoid the pain and we are often not aware of that. Misaligned walking can lead to back pain, cause spinal malalignments and poor posture.
Flat feet - Imbalance and Posture Problems
If your feet are flat and causing structural imbalance and posture problems there are easy, inexpensive ways to address that. Foot exercises, orthotics, ankle and foot supports and stress taping can greatly reduce the outcomes from flat feet. When your feet aren’t properly aligned with the rest of your body, it’s easy to see that this can throw your overall balance off as well.
As our feet have many tendons, and ligaments that connect to the rest of your body, foot pain can often travel into our legs because of the soft tissue connections. The lower legs are most commonly affected since our lower leg soft tissue is closely connected to our foot function. Calf pain, stiffness, soreness or leg muscle weakness can sometimes be the result of an unidentified foot problem.
Many of us don’t give our feet the care and attention they deserve. It’s incredibly important to check your feet often. Look for flattening of your feet (which does occur with age), hammertoes, bunions, ingrown nails, nail fungus, skin disorders, or any injuries. Use a mirror to check the bottom of your feet for cracks, peeling, or dry skin. This is especially important if you are diabetic to avoid infection or a wound that becomes difficult to heal.
Some Red Flags
Toenails with slightly sunken, spoon-shaped indentations can indicate anemia
Hairless feet or toes can indicate poor circulation, usually caused by vascular disease, can make hair disappear from the feet.
Frequent foot cramping (charley horses) -if it happens often, your diet may lack sufficient calcium, potassium, or magnesium.
Chronic Cold feet may indicate a thyroid issue or poor circulation
An enlarged, scary-looking big toe may likely indicate gout.
Sore toe joints – Rheumatoid arthritis can often be felt first in the smaller joints of the hands and feet.
There are many other foot symptoms that can be helpful in identifying what you may need to seek medical help with to insure the Whole Health of your body. It’s easy to see that your foot health really does impact your overall health! Always wear comfortable, supportive shoes, and possibly have custom-made insoles in order to avoid allowing your foot problems to dictate the health of the rest of your body!
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