Simple Ankle Stretches To Do At Home

One of the most common issues that prevent people from participating in regular physical activity is weak, stiff or painful ankles. Luckily, there are some simple stretches you can do at home to help ensure that your ankles remain flexible to avoid injury.

flexion

Active Flexion: Flex your foot as high as it will go, hold for a few seconds, then point your toes as far as they will go and hold for a few seconds. Repeat 2 sets of twenty reps on each foot every day to keep ankles mobile. If your ankles are sore or swollen, you can do this gentle stretch with your ankles iced and elevated if necessary.

side-to-side

Side To Side: Flex your foot and begin to rotate your ankle side to side. Begin with rotating your foot so the sole first faces outward, then inward. Another option for this exercise is to move your ankles gently in a circular motion.

wall-stretch

The Wall Stretch: Stand facing a wall with both feet together. Place your hands at shoulder height and width on the wall in front of you. Take a step forward with your right foot so that it is now only a few inches from the wall. Shift your weight onto your right leg and bend at the knee. Keeping both heels on the ground, lean your upper body slowly toward the wall until you feel a good stretch happening along the calf muscles of your left leg. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Return to your original position with both feet together. Repeat the stretch, this time putting your left leg forward. Do this exercise three times on each foot.

toe-wall-stretch

Toe To Wall Stretch: To begin this stretch, the heel should be on the ground and the toes on the wall. Place the opposite foot behind you. Keep the legs straight and move the entire body forward. Do not move your upper body forward and stick your backside out. You should feel a very strong stretch in the back of the calf and some stretch in the arch. To increase the stretch, move your heel closer to the wall and increase the angle of your foot. To decrease the stretch, move your heel back and lower your toes. Hold for 60 seconds and repeat 3 times.

DISCLAIMER:  The information contained on this site is not provided by medical professionals and is provided for informational purposes only.  The information on this site is not meant to substitute consulting with your podiatrist, doctor or other health care professional. The information available on or through this site is in no way intended to diagnose, influence treatment or cure any foot or other health problems nor is it a substitute for the services or advice of a podiatrist, physician, or health professional.  You should always consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health.

Strengthen Your Feet To Improve Your Performance

While our feet are the base of nearly every physical activity we do, they are often overlooked when it comes to exercising. We train our arms, backs, legs, abs…so why not our feet? If our feet are in better shape, we have better balance, we can run faster, we can jump higher and we have better endurance. So what are some ways we can exercise our feet, you may ask? Check out my suggestions below. Always be sure to start small and work your way up to more reps, you don’t want to injure your feet from jumping in too quickly.

  1. Go Barefoot: Removing your shoes and walking barefoot whenever possible is important to allow your feet to move naturally. Some simple toe raises on bare feet can help to improve balance and muscle tone.
  2. Walk On Uneven Surfaces: Walking on smooth rocks or sand barefoot can help your body tune its sense of balance. Learning to adapt to its surroundings is good conditioning for your feet. Plus, activating the nerve endings on the bottom of your feet can help with lower back pain (the nerves are connected).
  3. Foam Roll Your Feet: Using a soft foam roller, roll the medial, transverse and lateral arches of your feet. It’s critical to relax muscle tension in all 3 aspects of the foot to prevent stiff muscles and improve flexibility. Standing with a foam roller, begin by rolling your lateral (outside) arch, then your transverse (center) arch, followed by your medial (inner) arch. Be sure to roll them in this order to avoid injury and optimize results.
  4. Reflexology massage: Reflexology massage is a great way to release unwanted tension in your feet as well as improve your overall health in other areas of your body. Ensuring your feet aren’t harboring any tension is critical for good balance and performance.

Incorporating these simple techniques into your daily regimen will help strengthen your feet, which can in turn improve your athletic performance, including speed, balance and power.

DISCLAIMER:  The information contained on this site is not provided by medical professionals and is provided for informational purposes only.  The information on this site is not meant to substitute consulting with your podiatrist, doctor or other health care professional. The information available on or through this site is in no way intended to diagnose, influence treatment or cure any foot or other health problems nor is it a substitute for the services or advice of a podiatrist, physician, or health professional.  You should always consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health.

Is Your Desk Job Hurting Your Hips?

Do you have a desk job? A long commute on top of that? All that sitting could be doing some serious damage to your body! It’s very important to be sure that you’re doing regular stretching and taking breaks throughout the day to ensure you don’t do long-term damage to your body over time. Not only can this cause tight hip muscles, but it also weakens your back and butt. All of these combined creates an environment where injury can happen very easily.

Have you ever gotten up from a sitting position and your butt feels numb and your hips feel so tight that you have to lean forward at the waist just to walk? Excessive sitting leaves your hips and legs overly tight and your glutes inactive.

Some fitness experts argue that sitting causes muscles in the hip area to physically shorten (and stay shorter), even after you stand up. While there are no scientific studies to back that claim, from my own personal experience, sitting for lengthy periods of time definitely makes everything feel tight in my hip area.

Having a healthy range of motion in your hips not only feels good, but it can also help prevent injury when you are more active. Taking care of your hips may also help improve your posture, which can in turn alleviate back or neck pain.

Here are a few strategies you can use to help prevent you from turning into a total mess from sitting at your desk all day!

  1. Utilize a standing work station. A work station that is set up for proper ergonomics can do wonders for the body, physically and mentally.
  2. If you can’t stand at your workstation, I recommend you stand for at least 5 minutes for every 30 minutes you are sitting. If you can stretch during that five minute break, that’s even better!
  3. If you can’t be seen visibly standing to “take a break,” find some work you can do that requires getting up and moving. For example, making copies, walking to a colleagues office rather than calling, going to the water cooler for a drink or a bathroom break. Try to do one of these at least every 30 minutes to avoid prolonged sitting.
  4. Do regular hip stretches to prevent overly tight hips from causing imbalance in your body. If you can do these during your 5 minute breaks, this would be ideal. See below for some popular hip stretches from www.artofmanillness.com.

Leg Swings

Leg-Swings-1

This is a great dynamic stretch that I do before every workout. It loosens up the hips, hamstrings, and glutes.

Begin with forward leg swings. Find something to hold for balance. Start off swinging your right leg backwards and forwards as high and as far back as you comfortably can. Do 20 swings and then switch legs.

Next are side-to-side swings. Again, find something to hold for balance. Swing your right leg out to the side as high as possible and then in front of you towards your left as far as you can go. Perform 20 swings and then switch legs. Depending on how tight you feel, you may need another set.

Grok Squat

Grok-1

The Grok Squat is very similar to a catcher’s stance in baseball. Simply squat down until your butt touches your ankles. Keep your heels firmly on the ground and your back straight. Hold that position for 30-60 seconds. You should feel your hamstrings, quads, Achilles tendons, lower back, and groin gently stretching. If you’re super stiff, it may take a few days of practice to sink into a full squat. Keep at it. Your back and hips will thank you.

Intersperse a few short squatting sessions into your daily routine.

Table Pigeon Pose

Table-1

If you’ve done yoga, you’re probably familiar with the pigeon pose. This stretch is the same thing, except you use a table, which makes it a bit easier to perform and allows you to stretch out your muscles from different angles. Start by placing your leg on a tabletop (you could also use your bed) with the knee bent at 90 degrees. Place one hand on the table and one hand on your foot for support. Lean forward and hold for 60-90 seconds. Then lean left to the 10 o’clock position and hold for 60-90 seconds. Lean right to the 2 o’clock position and hold for 60-90 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.

If you have knee problems, rotate your body so that your ankle hangs off the table and place a pillow underneath your knee. Aim to do two pigeon poses a day (I personally do one during my workout and another at a random time).

Couch Stretch

Couch-1

This stretch is a killer. I didn’t realize how unlimber I was until I tried doing the couch stretch. It’s basically a quad stretch ratcheted up a few notches. Starrett argues that this will undo years of sitting.

You actually don’t need a couch for this stretch, it just makes it a bit more comfortable (if that’s even possible). You can also do it on the floor by putting your knee against a wall.

For the “easy” version, place the knee of the leg you’re stretching against the back of your sofa. Place the foot of your other leg on the floor. Slowly raise your torso to a neutral spine position (i.e. standing straight and tall). As you raise your torso, squeeze your butt and abs. Hold the position for up to four minutes. Switch and repeat on the other leg. You should feel things really stretch in your hip flexor area — just don’t push yourself too hard.

To up the ante, bring your non-stretching leg up onto the seat of the couch. Keeping a straight, neutral spine, squeeze the butt and abs and work your way up to holding the position for four minutes. Keep in mind that it may be awhile before you can get your torso to a straight position. When I first started doing this stretch the “hard way,” I could only raise my torso to a 45-degree angle and I’d have to support myself with my hand on the floor. I was eventually able to move to a straight position after two weeks of dedicated stretching. The difference in the mobility of my hips was (and continues to be) significant.

This stretch is so good that I try to do it every day, sometimes before a workout, sometimes when I’m just hanging out.

By incorporating regular breaks and stretches into your day, you can help to combat some of the damage that is being done to your body from extended sitting. Happy stretching!

DISCLAIMER:  The information contained on this site is not provided by medical professionals and is provided for informational purposes only.  The information on this site is not meant to substitute consulting with your podiatrist, doctor or other health care professional. The information available on or through this site is in no way intended to diagnose, influence treatment or cure any foot or other health problems nor is it a substitute for the services or advice of a podiatrist, physician, or health professional.  You should always consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health.

Are Tight Calves Causing Your Foot Pain?

One of the things I am learning in my journey to my best health possible is that what you think may be causing you symptoms (i.e. foot pain) may stem from a totally different area of the body. Often, when we experience heel and/or foot pain, it is stemming from tightness of our calf muscles, a condition called Gastrocnemius Equinus (GE).

calves

The gastrocnemius muscle is a big calf muscle. Any exercise in which you raise your heels, putting weight on the ball of your foot, makes the muscle bigger and stronger and gives the leg a nicely toned and defined muscle (which is why many women love how their legs look when wearing high heels). The top of the muscle is attached to your femur, and the bottom of the muscle forms part of the Achilles tendon which attaches on the bone at the back of your foot.  The Achilles tendon is composed of two parts: the soleus, which is found only deep and behind the calf muscle and is almost never a problem, and the more superficial and bigger gastrocnemius muscle which is frequently a cause of pain and symptoms.

When you walk the gastrocnemius muscle contracts and lifts your heel off the ground which moves you forward. For many of us, this muscle is short or tight which can lead to problems including flat feet, bunions, metatarsalgia, hammertoes, sesamoiditis, plantar fasciitis (heel pain) and Achilles tendon inflammation, tendinitis, and even Achilles tendon rupture.

wall-stretch

The most effective way to treat GE is with a regular stretching routine, particularly the wall stretch. Stand facing a wall with both feet together. Place your hands at shoulder height and width on the wall in front of you. Take a step forward with your right foot so that it is now only a few inches from the wall. Shift your weight onto your right leg and bend at the knee. Keeping both heels on the ground, lean your upper body slowly toward the wall until you feel a good stretch happening along the calf muscles of your left leg. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Return to your original position with both feet together. Repeat the stretch, this time putting your left leg forward. Do this exercise three times on each foot.

DISCLAIMER:  The information contained on this site is not provided by medical professionals and is provided for informational purposes only.  The information on this site is not meant to substitute consulting with your podiatrist, doctor or other health care professional. The information available on or through this site is in no way intended to diagnose, influence treatment or cure any foot or other health problems nor is it a substitute for the services or advice of a podiatrist, physician, or health professional.  You should always consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health.

Loosen Tight Hamstrings By Rolling Your Feet

I know, it sounds kind of weird but I promise it works! You can actually loosen your tight hamstrings by rolling your feet on a tennis ball. All of the muscles in our bodies are connected. The tissue in our feet is often very tight from overuse, and that tightness travels upward into our legs. If you commit to doing this exercise daily, you should see a change in your flexibility within a week.

Before you begin rolling, I recommend testing your flexibility with a forward bend. This will give you a good bench mark to measure against to see if the rolling is helping. Come into a standing forward bend with your feet hip distance apart. Press down into your feet, lift your front thighs and straighten your legs. Roll your front upper thighs in, and widen across your hamstrings.
You can use yoga bricks for extra support if your hands aren’t able to reach the floor. Make a note of how much height you need to place your palms flat, then roll up to standing position.

Now, stand close to a wall on a yoga mat or carpet, with one hand against the wall for added balance. Place a tennis ball under one foot and start to roll the sole of your foot over the tennis ball. Play around with the amount of pressure you are using. It should be intense, but pleasant. If it is painful in any way, you are applying too much pressure.

Bend your toes over the tennis ball and massage the backs of your toes. Then work your way down the sole of your foot, all the way back to your heel. Roll along the inner and outer arches. Keep rolling for at least two minutes on each foot. Once you’ve rolled both feet, try doing another forward bend and see if your flexibility has improved at all.

DISCLAIMER:  The information contained on this site is not provided by medical professionals and is provided for informational purposes only.  The information on this site is not meant to substitute consulting with your podiatrist, doctor or other health care professional. The information available on or through this site is in no way intended to diagnose, influence treatment or cure any foot or other health problems nor is it a substitute for the services or advice of a podiatrist, physician, or health professional.  You should always consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health.

Do You Have Shin Splints?

Shin splints are a common lower extremity complaint, especially among runners and other athletes. They are characterized by pain in the front or inside aspect of the lower leg due to overexertion of the muscles. The pain usually develops gradually without a history of trauma, and might begin as a dull ache along the front or inside of the shin (Tibia) after running or even walking. Small bumps and tender areas may become evident adjacent to the shin bone. The pain can become more intense if not addressed, and shin splints should not be left untreated because of an increased risk of developing stress fractures. Shin splints usually involve small tears in the leg muscles where they are attached to the shin bone. The two types of shin splints are: anterior shin splints, in the front portion of the tibia; and posterior shin splints, occurring on the inside of the leg along the tibia.

Shin splints can be caused when the anterior leg muscles are stressed by running, especially on hard surfaces or extensively on the toes, or by sports that involve jumping. Wearing athletic shoes that are worn out or don’t have enough shock absorption can also cause this condition. Over-pronated (flat feet) are another factor that can lead to increased stress on the lower leg muscles during exercise. People with high arched feet can also experience shin splint discomfort because this foot type is a poor shock absorber.

The best way to prevent shin splints is to stretch and strengthen the leg muscles, wear footwear with good shock absorption, and avoid running on hard surfaces or excessive running or jumping on the ball-of-the-foot. Insoles or orthotics that offer arch support for over-pronation are also important. Treatment for shin splints should include taking a break from the exercise that is causing the problem until pain subsides. Icing the area immediately after running or other exercise can also be effective, along with gentle stretching before and after training. Another option is taking aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. It is important not to try to train through the pain of shin splints. Runners should decrease mileage for about a week and avoid hills or hard surfaces. If a muscle imbalance, poor running form or flat feet are causing the problem, a long-term solution might involve a stretching and strengthening program and orthotics that support the foot and correct over-pronation. In more severe cases, ice massage, electrostimuli, heat treatments and ultra-sound might be used.

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DISCLAIMER:  The information contained on this site is not provided by medical professionals and is provided for informational purposes only.  The information on this site is not meant to substitute consulting with your podiatrist, doctor or other health care professional. The information available on or through this site is in no way intended to diagnose, influence treatment or cure any foot or other health problems nor is it a substitute for the services or advice of a podiatrist, physician, or health professional.  You should always consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health.