My right toe, post surgery exercises

Last week I spoke about my fear of movement in 2016, even though I travelled doing a LOT of activities.

My fear was due to a surgery on my right toe [Cheilectomy- removing bony spurs from phalanx and metatarsal]. I had on December 8, 2015. Please see previous post for more detail (My fear of movement).

When taking care of my right toe there are an abundant of corrective exercises I can do to ameliorate the health of my toe. And, it’s more than just working on my toe itself. Whole body movement helps just as much as singling out my toe!

Here is a video of some toe exercises I do.

These are exercises I DO… it does not necessarily mean they are the best for you.

ALL exercises can be done for 30 seconds up to 2 minutes (or to your own time). I decided to go through them quite quickly to show you a myriad of them.

1. TOE TRACTION

OMGoodness. If I could have someone traction my toe on a daily basis I would. I absolutely LOVE the feel of it. Whether it’s traction with a direct pull, or circular or external/internal rotation, I honestly can’t get enough of it. [Note: This is NOT the same thing as adjusting your toes. It’s traction, slowly].

2. TOE EXTENSION with hands

Trying to keep the knuckle in one place {with one hand} while extending the toe at its base {with the other hand}, seeing and feeling your range of motion. This is a great start if standing in toe extension is too hard for you. You never want to overdo it.

3. TOE FLEXION while sitting on floor

Instead of having full force on your toes while standing, this is a nice alternate, applying as much or as little pressure as you want. We forget that toe extension relates to toe flexion. Both need to be healthy!

4. ELEVATED TOE FLEXION with towel, blanket, or half dome

This is quite intense, and I would ease into it for sure. It feels sooooo good after! You can hang out while watching TV if you want! Obviously, seconds, then minutes. No need to overdo it.

5. DORSIFLEXION with FORCED TOE EXTENSION

Always listen to your toe. Overdoing this is easy… I always take my time and advance with caution on this exercise.

6. CALF RAISES OR LOWERS

Focus on the toes!!!! Slow up, slow down, fast up, fast down, holds up or in middle… anything and everything. All of this with EmPhAsiS on TOES. Two legs, one leg, it’s alllllll good!

7. TOP OF FOOT STRETCH

Love this stretch, because it goes all the way up my lower leg. A lot of people feel like it’s a balance exercise too. If it’s hard for you to balance, initially hold on to something to ease the shakes. Try not to contort your foot, have it directly back and apply weight.

8. PLAY

You can play around with both feet/toes to see differences in ROM, etc. Always be careful, AND do WORK! If it’s too easy you won’t get anywhere. Tissue repair is driven by MOVEMENT and LOADING, not by rest.

 

 

Top 5 Tips: Back to School for Kids

TIP #1: Foot health is essential for a strong foundation

Foot Health for Kids means their feet need to do the work, not the shoes. Get flat shoes, wide toe box and flexible soles with little cushion. It’s all about building a strong and healthy foundation in their feet which enable whole body health.

 

TIP #2: Allow your kids to Monkey Around!


Grip strength, the ability to hang, brachiate and climb are all crucial factors in growth and development.
Enjoy hanging out in trees as a family.

 

TIP #3: Be outside in Nature!

Nothing beats the outdoors (summer, fall, winter, spring) rain or shine, snow or hail! Just a little time in nature every week will help!

 

TIP #4: Walking to and from school

 

Walking is the best whole body natural movement for kids that can be incorporated into their day before and after school. Getting kids to enjoy walking absolutely helps with their lifelong health.

 

TIP #5: Jaw health equates to whole body health

If possible incorporate hard foods (not too hard of course) in your kids daily lunches in order to have strong and healthy development within the face/head/neck but also the diaphragm and core network. How your child uses the jaw in school will determine breath mechanics. No matter what they decide to do latter in life breathing will be a part of it.

 

All of these tips are grounded in research. It’s just done in a fun and positive way! :)

Spinal Love

Spinal Health

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What’s your spinal mobility and stability like, using the movement of spinal flexion?**

Note: Using a roller makes the exercise easier. I was just playing here. Please feel free to do it on the ground, keeping your FEET grounded the entire time (no cheating :) ).

The idea is to flex your entire spine and move slowly, vertebrae by vertebrae, down the roller without any “bumps”, “plops” or “flops” along the way. It is trying to sense each individual vertebrae getting as much articulation as possible.

When you are down fully; then, you do the exact reverse. Gently, slowly come back up one vertebrae at a time. Do you feel any sticky spots, any weaknesses, lack of mobility or strength? Is it easy or hard? It ought to be a natural and simple movement. I, clearly, need more work within mobility and stability.

**There are an incredible amount of exercises you can do for your spine. I am just showing you one example.

The moulding of our body

Don’t be manipulated by what you see
We are blinded by our roots and beliefs culturally
A chair is a ‘chair’ only if you want it to be
Let it go and let yourself be free

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Offices, restaurant, waiting rooms & meals,
Coffee catch-ups, play dates and reels,
Trains, planes and automobiles
Let me tell you something: It has nothing to do with the way that chair feels

It weight, and waits, us down
After hours of sitting we stand up like a clown
Feet turned out, knees and pelvis all bent
It’s no wonder our bodies start to cement

We blame our genetics, our age or our sport
“It’s certainly not me” is the common retort
No self-responsibility for 24/7 actions are taken
You say “It is absolutely not my fault, you are mistaken”

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The loads we place on ourselves do take their toll
We tend to segment bodies instead of looking at them whole
Casting our bodies with history, credence, food, furniture, clothes and shoes
Expecting no repercussions in the moment by moment habits we choose

Our healthy muscles, essential for the bipedal animal
Become adaptively shortened or lengthened, leaving us completely unstable
The daily positions we do dwell, tells our trillions of cells to basically go to hell
Muscle length discrepancies, aches, pains & injuries are what we enable

And that’s not it! Soon to come will be diseases of mechanotransduction*:
Like cardiac hypertrophy, atherosclerosis and protein mutation,
Arthritis, cancer, stenosis*, fibrosis* and necrosis*,
Increased fat deposits, adding on to your hyperkyphosis*.

And let’s not forget, globalization has taken the throne* by storm
Leaving peoples butts, pelvic floors and rectal health out of the norm
We have completely forgotten about our human body’s need for the squat
Now when we are asked to crouch down we all lose the plot!

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It is immobility that causes most of our wear and tear
No one is immune to the chair
It is prolific in our world, everywhere
The takeaway today is ‘just be more aware’

If you have issues with your tissues, I urge you to do this:
Start loving your feet to regain full body bliss
Take a dynamic stance towards that ‘chair’
See through the myths and take ownership of your self-care.

Healthy Feet

Take movement bites throughout the day
Go outside and enjoy each and every sun ray
Move to live, and live to move
You’ve got one body, so get on your groove

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All the *s

Mechanotransduction: how cells sense and respond to mechanical stimuli (i.e. every move you make) from their environment and convert the information into biochemical signals which in turn leave a specific response at the cellular level. [How you move matters]

Stenosis: Abnormal narrowing of a passage in the body (i.e. arterial, nerve and spinal compression)

Fibrosis: Thickening and scarring of connective tissue [We tend to think we get this from life or sport injuries, we don’t think of our daily positions seriously impacting our connective tissue. BUT, they do!]

Necrosis: Premature death of cells [This happens way too often… most notably in the feet and spine. What you wear (shoes, orthotics, heels, etc) and how you sit and duration of sitting have consequences]

Hyperkyphosis: There is a normal curvature in the thoracic spine and it is kyphotic. However, us humans have overdone the sitting (and many other daily positions/movements) that have caused an abnormal increase in the kyphotic curve leaving us with more shoulder, back, neck, issues (and, many many more problems). 

Throne: I just mean all the ‘chaired’ looking toilets

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Orthotics or not=> Our limiting foot beliefs are hurting us

 “If we have been bamboozled long enough we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge- even to ourselves- that we’ve been so credulous. So the old bamboozles tend to persist as the new bamboozles arise.” ~ Carl Sagan (Astrophysicist)

Our highly specialized, homo sapiens, feet have been around for over 120 000 years, in addition to evolving hundreds of thousands of years before that! The many intricacies of the foot are still beyond the scope of science; yet, we are tricked into believing “one brand of shoe” or “a pair of orthotics” can fix our feet. Really?

ORTHOTICS

Orthotics= Artificial support

When you think of artificial what comes to mind? Artificial sweetener, artificial colour, artificial flavour, artificial intelligence, artificial personality. The likelihood of artificial having a positive connotation is doubtful.

I HAVE to wear orthotics because:

  • My feet are flat
  • I have high arches
  • I’m genetically flawed
  • I always get injured
  • Shin splints
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Fat pad syndrome
  • My parents, grandparents and great grandparents had them

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Taking my shoes for a walk

Unshod studies

Research on European, Indian and Asian adults who had never worn shoes in their lifetime all showed fan shaped feet with variations in arch height. Flat feet, middle arch or high arched unshod adults were all asymptomatic. That means no foot problems.

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Most people in their lifetime will never even come close to moving their feet in 860,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 different ways {Katy Bowman, Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief}. Yes, that’s all possible foot ‘formations’.

Our feet have 100,000 to 200,000 receptors each that sense our environment as we stand, walk, run, skip and jump our way through the day. However, if we are shod our receptors (information coders) cannot transmit vital feedback to the brain in order for the brain to decide how to move our body, our feet, appropriately. For example, how often have you sprained your ankle? I bet it was in a shoe!

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Enough about the FEET!

Well, foot health is 100% indicative of whole body health. How are you knees, hips, pelvis, back, shoulders? How’s your cardiovascular health or your immune system functioning? How are you? Think about that for a bit.

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Do your jeans fit the environment? Or, does your environment fit the jeans? Does the environment matter? Do your jeans matter? Yes! Both matter AND the environment far outweighs your genes, unless they are skinny jeans then you win (or lose because you’re cutting off input to your feet instantly!). Yes, in the excellent picture I drew I wrote jeans for ‘genes’, just for fun.

Epigenetics, how the environment influences if, how and when your genes may be expressed, is a hot topic today. Sometimes certain genes will be turned off your entire life while others will be turned on, like when you wore those skinny jeans! If you didn’t get that, it’s okay. I am bad at jokes!

My dad, and all my dad’s family have osteoarthritis in the big toe (hallux). My brother has it and I have it too. Did I get it because of my dad? No! The environment-> cushy, heeled shoes with orthotics, tight calves, too much sitting, poor skeletal alignment, lack of proper movement. I absolutely believe if I knew then what I know now I would have never acquired osteoarthritis in the first place, 15 years ago. Sure, I might have a slightly higher tendency to acquire osteoarthritis than you… but, without those skinny jeans, I’d be fine! I’m done with the skinny jeans joking. 

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Are you asking me to stop wearing orthotics or go barefoot?! No, I’m asking you to do more work on your feet and think more of a whole body approach to your health. Top 10 things to do for better foot/overall body health.

1. The first thing you need to do is make sure ALL of your shoes (home, work, sport, dress) fit properly. Trace your feet and cut it out. See if that paper fits in ALL your shoes without coming up on the sides, the front or the back. If it does, give those shoes away. NO exceptions. Period.

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2. Your toes are often overlooked. If you can’t interlace your fingers inside your toes there’s dysfunction. Do as much as you can now with slow ankle rotations. It doesn’t matter if only a bit of your fingers are in between. Slowly increase movement over time. You can also buy correct toes or happy feet [I am not a distributor if you are wondering]. Note: Correct toes can be worn ALL day long and adjusted to your toes. Happy Feet are usually just worn at home for a little while.  

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3. Your calves have been adaptively shortened over time. It doesn’t matter if you wear orthotics or not, have shoes or not. I would 100% recommend you do calf stretches several times a day because your calves do not have their full natural functional capacity. AND calf tension plays an direct role in foot and toe tension. While standing, place the ball of your foot on a rolled up towel or a half dome (DON’T press your foot into the towel) to stretch your calf. Keep your ribs down, your hips in line, relax your shoulders and the front of your quads. [BUT my FEET hurt barefoot! No problem. Lie on your back on the ground, take a towel, wrap around the ball of your foot and slowly straighten your leg (or keep it bent) pulling towel (toes) towards your head. You ought to get that calf/back of knee/hamstring stretch]. The calf stretch is the #1 corrective exercise in Restorative Exercise, under the umbrella of Nutritious Movement. It can change your body!

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4. The top of your feet and your shins have been taking a beating… you have noooo idea. Now, if you are a dancer then forget this one, it’ll be too easy for you! But, everyone else do the top of the toe/foot stretch! Make sure you are plumb line (i.e. not leaning forward) and take a SMALL step back while placing the top of your foot on the ground… gently at first and then with 50% of your weight. Over time move your foot back a bit more. [But, I LOSE my balance! No problem. Sit down and point your toes with your hands (don’t point your toes with your toes!) It’s a passive exercise. OR sit on a chair with butt cheek slightly off so you can bring that one leg back and place the top of your foot on the ground. This is less pressure and you are not on your feet!].

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5. Grab some balls! Yoga Tune Up Therapy balls to be exact!!! I used to have tennis balls lying around everywhere but now all I have is YTU balls. They are the only balls specifically designed for muscle and fascia. Honestly, they are brilliant! Roll on your feet, calves, shins, hamstrings, butt, back, shoulders, neck, everywhere!

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6. When you sit [hours on end] do you sit on your ischial tuberosities or on your tailbone? Sit on your “sit bones/ ischial tuberosity” not on your coccyx! Nerves run down your spine into your feet! Don’t CUT the flow off! And, think about sitting beside your furniture while at home. It’s healthier!

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7. Most people that have “bad” feet are not so great at squatting. Start by squatting everyday on the toilet! It’s a DAILY dose of I love you body! If you can’t do it… start with one book and slowly add more books to the mix. Ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion and hip flexion are vital to your whole body and foot health!

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8. Be uncomfortable! If your feet are weak, so are many other parts of your body. You have got to go beyond comfort to get to health. YES, our “comfortable” lives are impairing our bodies. Go barefoot several times a day (even if it’s only for one minute at a time), go for walks on rocks (even if you can only stand there for 30 seconds), sit on the floor more often, lie down 15 minutes on the floor before going to bed to have a different kind of ‘loading’ on your body, get textured mats [floor mat, bath mat, tub mat, kitchen mat] at home to use on your feet, step on objects purposefully to gain more proprioception, crawl, move! Pick up marbles or objects with your feet! Do the alphabet with your feet as you walk around your house OR as you watch TV. Be uncomfortable! It’s the only way you know you are changing.

9. Find your foot playground! Yolande and I are taking in the beauty of this PARADISE before moving for two hours. Honestly, this was the BEST barefoot WHOLE body workout I have ever done. My feet, legs and all my body were shaking after moving around, crawling, jumping, playing.

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10. Are your feet MORE sore when you wake up in the morning? Your body position while sleeping is fundamental to your blood circulation and electrical flow. If you can, sleep on your back with a towel under your pelvis (at least for a bit). Place a towel just below your iliac crest (just below your low back. FEEL the bony pelvis and go below that). Now, touch your crotch and the front of your pelvis (either side). You can see I have a LEVEL. You don’t need one. BUT, I can almost guarantee anything you THINK is ‘straight’ is actually in posterior tilt, meaning your crotch is higher than your pelvis. Why does this matter? Innervation to your feet needs to happen 24/7! You will also find your calves and hamstrings aren’t so darn tight when you wake up :)

Bonus: Work on sitting down and standing up without using ANY body parts except your feet!

I just want people to understand if they take away their foot health, they are reducing their bodies function by 25%. Is working 75% of your body good enough for you?

 

As a side note: I had orthotics for 16 years. Over time I became FED up, I just quit! Quit believing that I HAD to wear them all the time, that I needed them for life and that I couldn’t do what I wanted without them. I was just too young (early 30’s) to rely on orthotics to “fix” me.

I s-l-o-w-l-y weened over the course of 2 years. I cried many many times because doing barefoot work was painful, tiring and taxing on my whole body. There was NOTHING easy about the process and it was 100% uncomfortable. AND, it was the best thing for me! 

To add, it took another 7 years to truly understand the implications of “comfort” shoes and heeled shoes (that includes ALL shoes~ running, dress, home, slippers, sandals, etc). 

All my shoes are now flat and I will never go back. 

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Kristin Marvin is a Performance Recovery Specialist, helping athletes achieve their best through proper recovery. As a former Canadian team runner she had her fair share of foot problems: plantar fasciitis, shin splints, achilles tendonitis, hip issues and massive back pain. Sharing her knowledge with athletes is her #1 objective, so others don’t have to suffer through pain, injury and setback.