We've all heard that old song as kids: "The foot bone's connected to the ankle bone." But what we may not know is that that song is actually very true. Our feet can affect our entire body. A great example of this is a research study that found that hyper-pronation of the foot can lead to TMJ pain in the jaw.
In this blog, I'm going to cover three of the main conditions I find on a regular basis when my patients have pain in other areas of the body - but it's actually being caused by issues with their feet and ankles.
At first glance, the knee appears to be a pretty simple joint; it looks like it's a simple hinge. But looks can be deceiving. The knee not only bends like a hinge, but it also rotates inward and outward and can translate forward and backwards.
There's a saying in the healthcare world, "The knee is a slave to the hip and ankle". A great way to see this for yourself is to stand up and try to move your knee without moving your hips or ankles. It's impossible!
If you have an unstable foot with either too much pronation or supination, this will put your knee in a vulnerable position. An over-pronated foot will cause increased stress on your inner knee and an over- supinated foot will cause increased stress on the outer knee.
Stiffness in your foot and ankle leads to pain in the front of the knee and around the kneecap. This is one of the most common types of knee pain that I see in my practice. Pain around the kneecap is often accompanied with both stiffness in your ankle and instability in the foot, so that condition needs a proper assessment by a healthcare practitioner to facilitate the quickest healing.
The hips can also be impacted by issues in the feet. Instability in the foot and ankle can lead to pain on the outer hip and posterior hip, and can also lead to pain in the groin. Stiffness in the ankle most commonly can lead to pain in the front of the hip.
When the foot over-pronates, it causes the knee to "cave in" - this leads to increased stress in the outer hip muscles (the gluteus medius) and increased stress in the back of the hip in the piriformis muscle.
When we have a stiff ankle, it causes a change in the final stage of the gait cycle called "toe-off". When we step forward, our weight is supposed to shift forward while our ankle flexes; this allows our leg to push us forward. When the ankle is stiff, that can lead to excess force needed in our hip in order to step forward. That situation will cause pain in the anterior or posterior hip.
The feet and ankles can also be a primary component of low back pain. Anytime we utilize squatting motions, such as sitting in a chair, squatting down to pick something up, or jumping, our ankles need to bend.
When our ankles are stiff, in order to get our hips lowered such as to allow us to sit in a chair, we have to bend our back more than is necessary to accomplish that task. So stiffness in the ankles will cause increased stress and pain in the low back.
Instability in the feet and ankles will also cause a rotation in our pelvis. When our pelvis is not able to be in a neutral position for long periods of time, this causes increased stress in the muscles and ligaments of the low back. In this case, this causes under-pronation or over-supination, either of which can also be a contributor to low back pain.
The most important thing to understand in considering how instability, over-pronation, or over-supination, and other feet/ankle conditions can affect areas like the knee, hips, low back - or even the jaw - is that we may only feel pain and discomfort in the other areas. This means we may not realize that our feet and ankles are the problem because we don't feel any pain there.
This is why it's important to see a healthcare practitioner who evaluates the entire body - not just the area that is hurting. At Movement Laboratory, every new patient gets a full-body movement assessment; no matter if the complaint they're coming in for is neck pain, knee pain, or wrist pain, or another area. It's critical to check how each area's mobility range and level affects the rest of the body.
A proper comprehensive evaluation will save a ton of time in recovery. So - if you're dealing with any of the issues listed in this blog, come see us at Movement Laboratory to get feeling better as fast as possible! Just give us a call at 918-300-4084 or you can even book online at movlab.janeapp.com.
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