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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.
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).
- 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.
I’m especially sensitive about balance — or getting better balance — since I broke my ankle a few months ago. During my physical therapy classes, it became even more clear to me that I’ve never had good balance.
I twisted my ankle often as a kid. I sprained it very badly about 7 or 8 years ago; I believe that I never healed completely, and this is why I had such a bad sprain that the force broke off a bit of my bone in October. My muscles and ligaments are simply weakened.
Last week, I read this excellent article in the New York Times, called Preserving a Fundamental Sense: Balance, which explains how our sense of balance degrades as we age, but more helpfully, it provides a simple test to measure your level of equilibrium, and, best of all, suggests some exercises.
The exercises–to be done in barefeet or stocking feet– in the article (all described in more detail and some with diagrams) include:
- Sit-to-stand exercise where you sit in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms. Stand up and down as quickly as your can, without uncrossing your arms. Do three in a row; increase to 10 times. Do once or twice per day. Stop if you get dizzy.
- Walking heel-to-toe, as if you’re walking on a balance beam. Walk about 10 feet, with the heel of your front foot just in front–almost touching–the toes of your back foot. Turn back.
- Walk on your toes.
- Walk on your heels.
- Sideways “crab-walking”. (Please see the article for a good explanation. This move is easier to do than to explain in words.
I would add the “towel” exercise, I learned in physical therapy. Roll up a hand-towel, and practice balancing on that with one foot at a time. First position towel so it is horizontal; just the arch of your foot should rest on it. Then move it vertical, so that the towel is directly under your foot, with all or most of your foot on the towel. If you can, raise your arms slowly above your head, by your ears, as you balance on one foot. You can also try closing your eyes.
The NYTimes says another article will follow with more exercises.
Until then, see you on one leg!
How embarrassing. I broke a bone today, crossing the street.
I was wearing my backpack heavy with my laptop and power cord and mouse and a couple of books and all that other stuff I need, and was looking at the bus stop sign as I crossed the street. Then I felt a snap as my left ankle twisted.
Uh-oh! It was REALLY painful, my breath stopped, and I felt slightly nauseous. I hobbled to the other side of the street and sat on the curb; my ankle swelled up in about two minutes.
In order to deal with the pain, I took deep breaths, and tried to regulate my breathing. I also squeezed the Hoku acu-point on my left hand. Those first 5 minutes were a big blur; I can’t say for certain that squeezing Hoku helped with the pain, but it was part of my coping toolkit. And I bet I’ll be relying on those again before I’m walking normally again.
Fortunately, through the kindness of a stranger and friends, I got home. The x-ray shows a tiny bit of bone broken off at the bottom of the fibula. I’ll be focusing on acupressure to help with this healing in the next few weeks.