The Gilded Serpent
the Choo Choos
Give you The Foot Blues
By Jawahare BA, RRT
my aching feet", such a familiar complaint of we, the biped hominids.
Our feet are often neglected and abused. Foot problems are quite common
among dancers, especialy ballet dancers who wear pointe shoes.
Foot trouble for
Middle Eastern dancers can come from dancing barefoot or from doing
repetitive steps during dance practice that put strain on one area
of the foot (eg. choo choos).
General foot pain can be a symptom
of a variety of health problems, including diabetes (neuropathy), flat
arches, tight shoes ( bunions and corns) and even viruses (plantar warts).
In this article I will address a foot condition called plantar fasciitis.
The plantar fascia is a fibrous sheath of tissue that runs along the
bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes. Inflammation and pain,
particularly in front of the heel bone charactarize plantar fasciitis.
It is generally worse after a long period of rest, such as upon awakening
in the morning. It often occurs as a consequense of abnormal bone structure
or excessive stretching in this area of the foot. Injury to the plantar
fascia is also associated with heel spurs ( bony tooth shaped attatchments
on the heel bone). Athletes and people with unusually low or high arches
are especially susceptible to plantar fascitis. Pain can be exacerbated
by poorly fitting shoes, tight calf muscles, obesity and by running
up or down hills.
The primary treatment for acute plantar fasciitis is rest and applications
of ice to reduce inflammation. In a pinch, a bag of frozen peas will
work ; just don't eat the peas afterwards, OK? Rub the ice along the
bottoms of the feet in 15-20 minutes intervals 4 times a day. When the
pain is severe and interferes with walking, try to reduce weight bearing
activities as much as possible. Try to rest the feet and ask your doctor
about taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (Motrin) and be sure
to take it with food as this class of medicine can irritate the stomach.
To prevent recurring and chronic plantar fasciitis, stretch the calf
muscles well before and after exercise. Focus on aerobic exercise that
is non weight bearing, such as swimming or biking. Wear shoes that support
the arches and that flex more towards the ball of the foot rather than
at the middle of the arch. Don't wear high heels because the can cause
shortening of the achilles tendon. Try to refrain from walking barefoot.
You don't need to wear your tennis shoes in the shower, but give your
feet the rest and support they need for recovery. Get some shoe inserts
at a drug or sporting goods store to help stabilize the foot and prevent
the ankles from turning inward ( pronation). Cloth athletic tape can
also be wrapped around the foot as an arch support.
For more serious structural foot problems, or if home treatment is not
effective after a period of several months, consult a podiatrist. The
doctor will evaluate your foot problem carefully. A foot exam can include
observation of walking gait, mobilization tests, MRI and x-rays. Most
podiatrists initially take a conservative approach when treating plantar
fascitis. Depending on the duration and severity of the condition, these
can include the measures outlined earlier as well as cortisone shots,
ultrasound, night splints and physical therapy. Most patients respond
quite well to this approach. Sometimes the doctor will order custom-made
shoe inserts called orthotics. The doctor takes a plaster cast of the
foot and sends it off to a company that makes the orthotics out of plastic.
As a last resort, podiatrists can perform
foot surgery that corrects plantar fascitis by severing part of the
ligament that is causing the painful tugging on the heel bone.
A final note on prevention of this debilitating foot problem: be kind
to your feet and give up the marathon sessions of choo choos for more
gentle forms of dance practice.
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