Feet First – But First, an Introduction!

Bragg Creek Physiotherapy is excited to introduce long time Bragg Creeker, physiotherapist Michelle Sinclair, to our team. This will be her first article for the High Country News but first, let us tell you a bit about Michelle. She has had a long and varied physiotherapy career working with everyone from athletes, musicians, conductors and dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. She has also worked in adult and children’s neurological rehabilitation, created back care programs for hospital staff and for a period of time focused on hand therapy. Because of Michelle’s love of music, she has a special interest in and has pursued further education in posture and breathing as they relate to maximizing performance and minimizing anxiety and fatigue. Michelle also recently became a certified Neurofunctional Acupuncture practitioner. We are so pleased to welcome her to our team and to gain this breadth of knowledge in one package! Read on to get Michelle’s take on what can be common foot problems for those who love to enjoy time on their feet on our beautiful trails…  

The warm sun hits you as you summit and you see the view stretch out for miles in all directions. How many hikes could that description refer to around Bragg Creek? Aren’t we lucky we get to experience the thrill of summiting right in our own back yard? This is a big reason I’ve stayed here for almost 20 years. Many body parts have to be working well for us to enjoy the trip up and back down a hike like this, or a dog walk, or even a short stroll across the room, and supporting them all is our feet.

Everyone has suffered with their feet at some point in time. Feet are those things we completely rely on to get us around, and to support us through thick and thin, until eventually they demand our care and attention. When your “dogs are barking” what are they saying to you? Sometimes it is the part of your foot sending the message that gives us the most clues. Is it the balls of your feet you are noticing? Could be metatarsalgia, literally metatarsal: “bones in the balls of your feet” algia: “pain”. Metatarsalgia can also lead to neuralgia which is “nerve pain” often felt in the toes. More about this later.

How about sharp sensations just in front of the heel? This is common in plantar fasciitis with and without heel spurs. People experiencing this type of “wake up call” also generally notice their symptoms are worst with their first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning, or after sitting for a while. Pain at the back of the heel can be a few things depending on a person’s age and activity levels. Commonly people may experience achilles tendonitis, which could become tendonosis if it hangs around for a while. Young people who are active and still growing may have “Sever’s heel” or calcaneal apophysitis. This is where the growth plate at the back of the heel becomes inflamed.

Pain “inside” or at the front your ankle can indicate that the joint needs to get moving after being “stuck” following a period of inactivity, like after a sprain.

Also, there could be nerves that are “speaking” to us and telling us they need more room to do their job properly. Nerves in many parts of our feet can be entrapped or compressed and when this happens they generally react by sending us sharp, shooting messages, or sometimes numb  or tingling signals, or sometimes a combination of these. Sometimes a nerve issue further up the leg occurs and a small foot muscle cannot fully do its job to support us. In these cases we may begin to receive a message from another part of the foot entirely.

These are common ways our feet try to get our attention. Of course, sometimes the cause of our foot’s discontent is completely obvious to us, but we still may need a little help deciding what actions would be the most effective and efficient for us to take in order to make our biggest supporters happy (and quiet) again.

Fortunately, there are many people well versed in foot talk even if you haven’t mastered what your feet are trying to tell you. Often some simple stretches, a bit of strengthening, or a little support in the form of good shoes or orthotics (either “over the counter” or custom made) can go a long way toward getting our best foot forward. Manual therapy and tape are also helpful as are many “modalities” including ice/heat, ultrasound, acupuncture/IMS, laser, shock wave, and neuromuscular electrical stimulation. The folks at Bragg Creek Physiotherapy, including physiotherapists, a massage therapist and a pedorthist who visits regularly, would be happy to help translate and to provide support as needed to get you and your feet back on the trails.

Michelle Sinclair PT
BMR-PT, CMA (Contemporary Medical Acupuncture)
Proud new member of the Bragg Creek Physiotherapy team