The feet are often a neglected, underappreciated body part. Your feet play a huge role in controlling your balance, posture and how the rest of your body works. There are many different reasons why we get foot pain. The most common causes are a combination of trauma, poor biomechanical alignment of the bones, strains or disease.

The foot is an intricate structure of 26 bones that form two arches, the ankle joint is the interaction of the foot and the lower leg. The bones of the feet are primarily held together by the shape in which they all fit together and by fibrous tissue known as ligaments. There are 27 ligaments that help control the foot. All the muscles of the foot and a tissue called the plantar fascia provide secondary support to the foot. There are many small internal muscles that attach and insert in the foot, as well as larger muscles that begin in the lower leg and attach onto various places on the bones of the foot. There are also fat pads which provide protection, support weight-bearing and act as shock-absorbers.

For walking and most athletic movements the foot is the foundation. Pain always indicates that there is a problem which is most commonly caused by the interaction of the internal structures of the foot. When we have foot pain the body reacts by changing the mechanics of movement or function in order to reduce the pain. This ultimately causes changes in the way we walk, stand and normal movement becomes impossible to carry out. This often leads to further injury or compensation in the knees, hips, pelvis and spine.

Ligament injuries, muscle strains and fractures typically occur in the foot and are of a sudden onset. The foot muscles, bursa and fascia can also be strained by over stretching,  overuse or overloading. A sprain of the foot or ankle occurs when the ligaments that hold the bones of the foot together are overstretched and the fibers tear. Another source of foot pain is the looseness or tightness of the ligaments in the foot. Chiropractic adjustments are used to restore normal function into the joints removing the strain on the surrounding ligaments and muscles. Many people have found that chiropractic is beneficial in helping them get back to normal function after a sudden sprain or sports injury.

The feet have an abundance of proprioceptors. Proprioception is the term given to the feedback system that our body has which tells the brain where our limbs are. For example if you are sitting normally and reading this text, your brain knows that you are not upside down or lying down! This is such a fundamental thing that we never think about it but it is vital for survival. After an injury or trauma such as a sprained foot this feedback system is disrupted causing dysfunction in the body, resulting in imbalance, a limp or leaning to one side.

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Many people in today’s society have dropped arches also known as flat feet. When the arches drop the ligaments are often stretched and the angle of the joints in the foot change which can both result in pain. When the arch drops the ankle joint then angles inwards which puts quite a lot of strain on the inside of your knee. When the angle of the ankle changes there is a slight shift in weight distribution of the knee as well as a slight change in angle at the knee which can then cause a twist in the hip, causing one side of your pelvis to twist forward. If the pelvis twists forward you can experience an intense pain or ache across the low back or hip area.

Even those who do not have flat feet can suffer with this same problem; this is due to abnormal biomechanics during the walking cycle. When a person with a normal arch walks their arch can collapse when the foot passes through the walking cycle (heel down, toe down, heel off, toe off). If your arch collapses as you walk the weight that should be transferred through the big toe is directed towards the inside of the big toe because the change in way the foot rolls.

It is very important that you correct your dropped arches (flat feet) as there are many conditions associated with this misalignment in the foot. Such conditions include shin splints, tendonitis, patello femoral pain syndrome (knee disorder), Achilles tendonitis, bursitis, and hip and spine pain.  

Chiropractic adjustments of the joints of the foot and ankle can help restore the normal function and biomechanics of the feet and help restore normal arches over a period of time, especially in children. However, sometimes when we are an adult it is harder for the feet to hold the corrected position after chiropractic adjustments and thus the dysfunctional cycle begins again. In such cases a pair of prescription orthotics can be specially made to help maintain the arch shape, thus providing support, better weight distribution and less pain.

Footwear can also be a contributing factor in foot pain. The long term effects of poor fitting shoes can lead to bunions, corns, irritation of the nerves and joints, misalignment of the toes and the source of microtrauma injuries to the foot.

Every time you take a step, the shock when your foot hits the ground is transferred up from your foot to the ankle then to the knee, through to the hips and spine, thus any biomechanical problem or imbalance in the foot can ultimately cause lower back, hip or knee pain. Don’t wait until you develop problems in other parts of your body, get your foot pain checked out early by a chiropractor.