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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.

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.

I got through the weekend, and this afternoon’s comfort-cookie crisis with Trader Joe’s Druid oatmeal cookies. As I was savoring the lovely chewiness of my third lovely cookie with tea, I had an “aha!” moment about the sweet-tooth comfort-food connection.

In the Traditional Chinese Medicine system, sweetness is associated with the Earth element. So when Earth element (associated with the Stomach and Spleen meridians) is out of balance, sweet cravings often ensue.

When might Earth element be out of balance?

  • The Earth is associated with home, the place we feel “homey”, so a move to a new house, or traveling could cause a tip in balance.
  • Or maybe you have too many ideas flying around your head, and you don’t feel “grounded.” You might reach for a cookie or ice cream.
  • Think about a plant; only when it is strong and grounded in the earth can it grow up and out.
  • For women, the Earth element is also related to the menstrual cycle, which helps us understand PMS sweets-cravings.

In my case, since I broke my ankle last week, my connection to the Earth has diminished. I can’t put both feet on the ground. I’m hobbling around on my right foot and two crutches. And even though I’m mostly stuck at home, it’s difficulty to feel homey. My foot is up in the air. My energy is way above the floor; I think it’s in my shoulder area because my shoulders are tired from using the crutches. Oy!

So, a few thoughts on balancing Earth energy:

  • First of all, it’s OK, I say, to eat my cookies! As long as I’m enjoying them, and in moderation. (I’ll run out at any rate, and can’t exactly run down to the store to get some more. That’s the silver lining.)
  • Now that I’ve identified this Earth-imbalance, I can be mindful about other ways to address it:
    • Enjoy healthier sweetness. Fruit. Dried dates. I’ve been eating fruit puree (frozen mangoes and blueberries) with yogurt.
    • Squeeze my muscles; the Earth element loves this. My right leg is working really hard, as are my arms, so I’ll give myself a little massage later.
    • Create routine, especially since I’ve had to adjust and adapt so much of the way I normally do things. I wrote about this, plus other tips in a post related to the Earth element.
    • Energize the Three Mile Point (Stomach 36). Sit down with feet flat on the floor. Make a light fist and rub vigorously along the outside of your shins, a couple of inches below your knee.

OK. So I now have a plan to help address my un-earthiness, and tame my cookie monster!

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.