Treating Bunions, Fallen Arches & Flat Feet
~ Dr. Kelli DuCloux ~
What is a Bunion ?
To understand how to treat bunions, without the need for surgery, we must first understand what a bunion is and what causes it. “Bunion” is Latin for the word “turnip”.
A bunion is a deformity of the base joint of the big toe. It’s like a big bump that forms at the spot where your big toe connects to the bones of your foot.
This spot is where the big toe, called the “hallux” joins with the long bone of the foot, called the “metatarsal”. There are 5 metatarsals or long bones, each one connecting to the five toes. So bunions occur where those 2 bones connect, at that junction or joint.
Some bunions are painful. Some are not.
What causes Bunions ?
Bunions can be an enlargement caused by inflammation. Some can be caused due to arthritis. While others can also be a hereditary condition.
Also make sure that you have well-fitting shoes as shoes that are too small may lead to the presence of bunions.
Specifically, when the big toe = the hallux, starts to lean in toward the other toes, this condition is called “hallux valgus”. So the leaning over is what can cause swelling along the connecting joint.
How can you treat Bunions ?
One exercise you can do to treat your bunions is a toe stretch exercise. Take an elastic band and place it around both big toes. Spread your feet apart. Then angle your toes from pointing straight ahead to pointing in angles outward.
So for example if your start with your toes facing the 12 o’clock position, then your right toe will angle out to the 2 o’clock position and your left toe will angle out to the 10 o’clock position.
Go from 12 o’clock to the angle positions and hold for 3- 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
This exercise strengthens the abductor hallucis muscle.
This muscle serves to move the big toe away from the other toes. It runs along the bottom of your foot from the heel bone to the big toe joint bone.
Using medical terms, it starts at the calcaneous bone (the heel bone) and runs to the side and bottom of the foot to the proximal phalanx (big toe joint bone).
Another exercise are heel raises. This exercise strengthens the medial arch musculature which runs along the base of the foot (from the calcaneous bone) along your arch and to the big toe (proximal phalanx.
Raise up on your heels and hold for 3 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
The next exercise is called toe crunches or toe curls. While standing, lean on the outside edges of your foot and curl your toes, bending them as far under down as possible. (Later on, we will do the opposite exercise where we raise the toes toward the ceiling.)
Curl toes and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Next exercise is actually an intense massage and manipulation of this joint. In sitting position, hold the joint with one hand while pulling and pushing the toe up and down. Next rotate the big toe in a circular position. Finally, move the toe from left to right.
Keep doing this intense manual massage going for a full minute in the beginning and then build up over time to up to 5 minutes. You want to really get into that joint and increase the flexibility of that joint. Get blood circulating in there to help it become more mobile and less rigid.
Finally, for this last exercise, you want to consciously practice moving your big toe by itself. In the prior exercise, you moved the toe using your hand and fingers while in a sitting position.
Now, you want to get in a standing position and simply stretch your toes apart. The goal is to get some space between the big toe and the one next to it.
This will be VERY difficult at first!!!
Your big toe is accustomed to sitting on top of, or squishing itself next to the 2nd toe. So, it might take a long time but little by little with just spending a few minutes each day, consciously training your toe, you will see it start to stretch away and build some space between the toes.
KEEP PRACTICING THIS MANUAL (MENTAL) STRETCH!!
FALLEN ARCHES & FLAT FEET
The direct cause of being flat footed is linked to a muscular imbalance in the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle.
When your main arch-supporting tendon, the posterior tibial tendon, decreases in strength due to muscle decay or injury, the foot begins to flatten and can cause pain
during normal activities.
Weakness in the tendon can be present at birth due to genetics or can develop from early walking patterns.
However, in most people who experience fallen arches, it comes from strain due to aging or placed on the feet from
standing or walking in heels for long periods of time.
Improper footwear that doesn’t support the arch of the foot, diabetes and obesity can increase your risk of developing fallen arches.
Correcting Muscle Weakness in Your Foot
The muscles that are under your feet are responsible for raising the arch of your feet.
When these muscles are weak, the foot flattens and can cause pain.
You can strengthen your intrinsic muscles with a: Pilates-based towel exercise.
1)Sit in a chair with a towel spread on the floor in front
of the towel toward you by pulling the balls of your feet towards your heels.
4)After each small movement, lay your feet flat on the towel, without moving your heels, and pull another piece of the towel toward you.
Standing Considerations in Correcting Arches
If you suffer from fallen arches, the deformity may be more pronounced when you stand.
Any standing exercise will place strain on the posterior tibial tendon and cause the foot to flatten.
Shifting the weight around your foot from the inside to outside edge of your feet while standing can be an effective way to strengthen arches to help correct the fallen arch.
If this adjustment is difficult, a podiatrist might recommend orthotics.
Correcting Arch with Ankle Strength
The large muscles that control your ankle movements can also help fix your arches.
Standing calf raises work these muscles.
Place your toes on the edge of a stair or raised surface with your heels hanging down, and then lift your heels as high as possible.
This movement helps to restore the arches of your feet and strengthen the entire foot and ankle complex as well.
Gradually starting an exercise program and walking in comfortable appropriately fitted shoes will provide the support and strength needed to restore your arches.
Strengthen the arch
1. In standing position lift your toes toward the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times
2. In standing position, stand so that your weight is only on the outside edges of your feet. Then lift your toes toward the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
- In standing position, bend knees slightly and concentrate your weight onto the ball of your foot. Then lift your toes toward the ceiling and hold for 10 seconds. (Hold onto a chair or the wall so you do not fall!)
- Slight modification of Exercise #3, after you hold for 10 seconds, angle your feet so that the weight is now concentrated on the outside edge but still on the ball
of your feet. (Your heels should be slightly off the floor). Now lift your toes as far toward the ceiling as you can and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
- In a standing position, grip the floor with your toes and maintain this grip. At the same time, shift your weight to the outside edges of your feet. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
- Get a pen. Place the pen on the ground (cap on) at the edge of your arch as if you were going to slide it under your right foot. Raise your left foot so that all your weight is only on the right foot. (Hold table, chair or wall for support.) Now grip the floor with your right toes. Holding that position (toes gripping floor) angle your foot so that your weight is on the outside edge of your right foot to the point where you CANNOT feel the pen against your arch area. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 5 times. Switch feet.
AS WITH ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM, CONSULT YOUR PERSONAL PHYSICIAN BEFOREHAND.
ALSO, IF AN EXERCISE IS PAINFUL OR TOO STRESSFUL, STOP IMMEDIATELY.