Reader Question: A Broken Foot
A reader asks:
"I broke several bones in my foot a number of years ago. Most of the time it's just fine. However, once in a while, it aches, is stiff or causes mild pain when I walk.
Can massage therapy help?"
It very well might and is certainly worth a try. Since it's your foot, a place you can easily reach, you can probably do this on yourself.
Besides the bones in your foot having been broken, no doubt the trauma that caused it also strained the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in your foot, too.
Here's where knowing exactly the right stroke to use can really make a difference. While gliding strokes may feel good, they won't be very effective. What will probably work best in this case is lots of friction (rubbing strokes).
The foot is very bony. There are lots of ligaments holding the bones together and lots of tendons going to the toes and around the ankle. The muscles in the foot are small and a little hard to access. They are between the five long bones that lead to the toes and on the underside of the foot beneath the thick skin of the sole and the thick tendonous structure known as the plantar fascia.
I'll describe how you can treat the entire foot. If the ache or stiffness is confined to a particular area you can concentrate on that area.
Friction is a rubbing stroke whereby you rub the skin over the tissue underneath. You can do it with or without oil but if you use oil, use only a little so that you still get some friction. Take the pads of your fingers and rub back and forth. Say you are starting at the ankle. You would rub the area thoroughly. The pads of your fingers will glide over the skin just a little as your are gradually moving around from place to place, but your fingers are not gliding a lot over the skin. It is as if you are reaching through the skin and "scrubbing" the joints, ligaments, whatever, underneath. Do this thoroughly, work around all those bony nooks & crannies. It should create a little warmth. This is very good for the joints, tendons, and ligaments. Do this all over the foot or concentrate around the area of discomfort.
Getting at the muscles between the long bones is a little challenging, but you can take your fingertip and friction between the long bones of the foot located between the ankle and the toes. As I said before, imagine that you are trying to scrub between those bones.
The underside of the foot is also a little challenging because the structures we want to affect are beneath some very thick tissue. If you make a loose fist and use it to rub the area, you can penetrate the thick sole of the foot. Using your thumbs to press into this area and stroke the arch longitudinally is good, too.
Gently mobilizing the many joints of the foot can be helpful, too. Firmly grasp your foot in both your hands and gently move the foot so that the various joints are moved as much as is comfortable. This should not cause any pain.
This can be done regularly or occasionally when the foot is feeling fine as a preventive measure. If the foot is feeling achy, it can be done to try to relieve discomfort. If you know you are going to be in a situation that may cause discomfort, it can be done beforehand, during the stressful activity, and afterwards.
By the way, this treatment is also good for dancers, runners, and anyone who stands on their feet a lot.
I hope this helps!