One of my favorite topics when I teach wellness workshops is feet. I encourage my clients and students to give their feet some attention — to help with calming and grounding at the end of the day, to help support a good night’s sleep, and to help address issues of discomfort in the legs and lower back.

I came across a short NPR piece called How to Keep Your Feet Happy, which talks about a common foot ailment, plantar fasciitis. It provides advice on the best kind of shoes to wear — they should have a minimum of support — and an audio slideshow with exercises to strengthen and stretch feet presented by podiatrist-turned-Pilates instructor Colleen Schwartz.

And here are two of my previous posts with stretches for feet:

I have been a student of Anusara yoga for many years, and have benefited from my practice in many ways, including most recently in helping relieve lower back pain.

Click HERE to watch a short (2 minute) video on a simple yoga pose —  the L pose supported by a chair or table — that will help with lower back discomfort, presented by John Friend, who is the founder of Anusara yoga.

If you are new to yoga, try this pose yourself by following the video, or better yet, try a yoga class yourself. I recommend finding a beginner series of a few classes to get you off to a solid and safe start. And don’t be shy about telling the instructor about any back pain or other issues you are having. A skilled teacher will be able to help you practice in a safe way.

I was scheduled to teach an acupressure wellness class at Elephant Pharmacy tonight. What a shock to receive a message early this morning that Elephant has closed.

I taught classes there for over three years, and really appreciated the chance to teach acupressure wellness to the Elephant community.

Hip Hip Hooray for Elephant! May another pharmacy that “prescribes yoga” return to our community soon.

I can’t say enough about how useful tennis balls are for dealing with shoulder pain.  (Watch the video here.)And I’ve recently become a convert to tennis balls to help with sore feet, especially as people ask about dealing with foot soreness, ankle pain and issues like Plantar faciaitis.

Just as you would use a tennis ball (or two) to relieve tension in the upper back/shoulders, you can do the same with the feet.

  • Take a used tennis ball, and put it in a sock.  You can use the tennis ball alone, but I think the sock helps keep the ball from rolling around.
  • Before starting, stand in your socks or bare feet on a flat surface, and check in with how your feet feel.  Notice any discomfort.
  • Sit down in a chair that allows you to sit straight, with both feet on the floor.
  • Start by rolling the tennis ball under that foot that is bothering you (or bothering you more).  Roll the ball slowly–ball of foot, arch and heel areas– , and notice if there are any places where it feels especially good, and stop at those points for a few deep breaths.  If you feel any pain, stop.
  • If you think your foot can bear more pressure, take your foot off the ball, and stand up.  Roll the ball under your foot again; this time put as much weight on the ball as feels like a good massage.  Take a few deep breaths as you bear your weight on the ball.  Touch a wall or furniture if you need for balance.  If you feel any pain, stop.
  • Take your foot off the ball, and once again stand with both feet on the floor.  Notice how you feet feel, compared to before, and compared to each other.  The foot you just massaged with the ball should feel flatter on the floor.
  • Sit back down and do the same with your other foot.  Even if you don’t have discomfort in that foot, or think it needs a massage, spend at least a minute to roll the ball under it.  Following the principle of yin/yang, it’s always a good idea to give attention to the other side.  You’ll likely feel that the other foot feels flatter on the floor, too.

If you’re at home and have the time, you can follow up by giving both feet a massage with your hands.

If you want to get the benefit of this at work, take a tennis ball and roll it under your feet while you work.  You can do it while you’re working, or dedicate a few minutes to the above exercise.  Your feet, the rest of you body, and your mind will thank you for the brief but effective break.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

In an article titled “Tracking your family health history“, Dr. Lori Wiviott of Harvard Medical School suggests that it’s not only important to keep track of your own medical history, but also to create a medical history of your family, since many diseases are genetic. 

The article contains a simple guide on how to create a medical family tree. This seems like the logical extension from the importance of keeping personal medical history information.  I wonder if the My Life Log includes a place for family history?

While I’m a big proponent of self-knowledge for helping with personal wellness (e.g., having a good sense of how you are personally affected by stress in your life), I have been haphazard with my own medical record-keeping.  If I had to come up with all my medical records, including a hospitalization years ago in another country, I would be in big trouble.

I just came across a very simple, but potentially hugely valuable tool: MY LIFE LOG

MY LIFE LOG, A Medical and Personal Diary, can help provide valuable information for doctors and prevent medical errors in treatment and diagnosis. Doctors are like detectives. The more clues they have, the quicker they can diagnose their patient’s problems. A patient who has kept a personal health diary that includes their family medical history and makes that information available to healthcare providers is being pro-active in their own healthcare.

You can buy the logbook — which looks nice; and sure beats the folders of paper I have scattered about.  Would encourage me to consolidate the information.  They also offer the option of downloading a PDF with all the pages (I assume) that are in the book, so you can print what you need and put into a binder.  I like this idea because:

  1. Less expensive, and saves on shipping costs ($ and carbon output)
  2. You can print only the pages you need
  3. You can print extra pages that you may need that might not be in the bound version

I’ll consider this as an option to help me declutter and get organized, and support my Everyday Wellness.

My Life Log: www.mylifelogbook.com

HealtyToes.com

What are those things?!?!?  They are toe stretchers.  They help stretch out toes that are cramped together, and help release and relieve sore feet and ankles. 

I’m writing about this today because I’ve recently had healthy toes and toe stretchers on my mind. 

  • WEAK ANKLE: The ankle I fractured last year still bothers me occasionally, and my first reaction is to spread my toes (on both feet).  Why do I do this?  Because I feel great when I spread my toes: I take a nice deep breath, my feet feel more relaxed, my ankle feels better… and I actually feel good all the way up my legs to my back.  Toe stretchers would allow me to spread my toes–and get the benefits–without effort.
  • BUNION: I asked my mom about her problem ankle.  She showed me her feet, and lo and behold, the big toe on the foot with the problem ankle turns in; she’s starting to get a bunion.  The toes on the other foot, however, are lined up nicely, and she doesn’t have any ankle problems on that side. I think toe stretchers would help her toes align better, which will stablize her foot and strengthen her ankle.
  • PLANTAR FASCIITIS: A student in a wellness class asked about addressing plantar fasciitis.  I think toe stretchers can help address this.  (Also, rolling your feet over a tennis ball can help relieve some pain, too.) 

I have to say that I personally have not used these, though I’ve tried them on once and they felt great.  You can read the account an MD has written about her decision to try them to prevent stiff feet, and how they beat her trip to the orthopedist.

They are available in several brands, which look pretty similar: Yoga Toes (which you can only buy on their website), Healthytoes (which is available on Amazon and less expensive than Yoga Toes) and Genki-Kun (which claims to be the original from Japan; their sizing is confusing).

To Buy:
Healthytoes BLUE color, Small or Large
Healthytoes PINK color, Small only

  • SMALL fits Women’s shoe sizes: 5.5 to 10.5; Men’s shoe sizes: 3.5 to 9.5
  • LARGE fits Women’s shoe sizes: 11 and up; Men’s shoe sizes: 7.5 to 10+
  • (SIZING TIPS: Sizing is approximate and may vary according to width of foot. The majority of Women with medium-width feet will wear a size Small. 99% of Women new to toe stretching should order the size Small.  — From the Healthytoes website.)

Genki-Kun products are available, too, but their sizing is confusing.

Yoga Toes sells directly; more expensive individually, but there’s a discount on volume.

TENNIS BALL TRICK? A tennis ball can reduce stress and fatigue, as well as address shoulder and neck issues

This is part of Elephant Pharmacy’s Share the Wellth program.  To leave a comment or a question about this tip, click here.

See more videos.

A few days ago, I talked with a mother of a 7-year-old boy who has experienced a great deal of anxiety in situations that are new: places, people, scenarios.

This mom told me that what has really helped him cope better is the simple — yet not always easy — act of deep breathing.  She was shocked to learn that indeed, her son didn’t know how to breathe deeply.  His breath was extremely shallow.

Here is how she has helped him to learn to breathe more deeply.

  • He lies down, and she places a book on his tummy — right on top of the bellybutton is a good marker.
  • He is encouraged to take a breath that’s deep enough (to fills the belly) and make the book go up.
  • This mom also used her hand, instead of a book. She placed her hand firmly on her son’s tummy so that he felt the resistance and could breath into her hand.  This is probably a great step to take when deep breathing is difficult to attain at first.

The new school year has started, and this deep breathing has helped a 7-year-old make that transition with greater comfort.

How could it help you or a child or adult you know?  You can do this yourself, either lying down, or sitting up or standing, with your hand on your belly.

I’ve spent the last few days in a hospital, while a family-member had surgery and has been recovering.  This is a relatively new hospital, so it looks more like a nice hotel with its grand entry, “concierge-like” welcome desks, and comfortable furniture.  (They also have a great Au Bon Pain that is open 24 hours!)

Healthy tools available at the bottom of the kiosks: Face Masks, Facial Tissues and Alcohol Handy Wipes

One of the first things I noticed in the waiting areas were the Keep Everyone Healthy kiosks (pictured at right.)  These reminded me of an article I read a while back (Selling Soap) about how the risk of catching an infection IN a hospital is quite high, and that’s because the hospital staff doesn’t wash its hands enough.  The article talked about Cedars-Sinai Hospital in LA that had a successful campaign to encourage hospital staff to wash their hands more. 

I wondered whether these Keep Everyone Healthy kiosks were part of a larger push at the hospital to include everyone in the community.  Certainly, I have been a part of the hospital community for the better part of the past week, and I appreciated having the tissues there in the waiting room.  I saw some other folks go over and pick up a wipe or a tissue, too.  Though I have yet to see any face mask takers.

I have no doubt that seeing the kiosks in the waiting area has influenced my thinking about the importance of sanitation within other parts of the hospital; namely the rooms where patients are recovering.  There are signs all over the place that emphasize the importance of wearing gloves and washing hands before and after patient contact. 

I haven’t been keeping an eagle eye on the staff, but I can say that norm is for doctors/nurses/technicians to either put on new gloves, wash their hands or use a sanitizing gel when they walk in the room, and throw out the gloves or wash their hands on the way out.  It helps that each private room has a washing sink in the entry area, gloves are provided in three sizes, and there’s one sanitizing gel inside the door and another outside the door.

They have made it Simple and Easy to do this simple but effective community health safety step.  In my short tenure at the hospital, it’s become a habit!

So taking this out of the hospital, I’d like to think about what steps I can take to make hand-hygiene more of a routine for me, whether I’m at home or outside.  Some things come to mind:

  • Make an effort to wash my hands before each meal–especially when I’m eating out–and after I’ve used public transport or have shaken a lot of hands.  Also, after I get home from a day out. Do this enough, and it becomes a habit.
  • Increase this if I think I am getting sick, or have a cold.
  • Carry something like Purell hand sanitizer in my bag, as a backup.

Here’s a post from earlier about hand-washing, including a tip on how to know you’re washing long enough.

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