“A compromised foot structure is a major perpetuating factor in chronic musculoskeletal pain throughout the body” – Janet Travell
After the excesses of the festive season, resolutions to ‘get healthy’ and ‘lose weight’ are common. Exercise and increased physical activity are rightly promoted as a means to these ends, but exercise-related pain and injuries are a common reason for quitting a new regime (Dishman, 1988). Many are trapped in a frustrating, vicious cycle of trying to lose weight and improve health through regular exercise, only to suffer pain and injury, become less active and gain even more weight.
The previous science post detailed how dysfunctional feet are an unrecognised cause of exercise-related pain and injury (Vorobiev, 1999). Compromised foot structure leads to an unstable foot that, in turn, leads to excessive compensatory activity of muscles to counteract the effects of an unstable base during weight-bearing movement. Fatigued muscles lack sufficient energy to fully relax, leading to chronic low-level tension and knots called ‘trigger points’ that impair blood flow, irritate nerves and produce pain during and after activity (Bron and Dommerholt, 2012).
Pain can be localised near the trigger point or referred to areas far from the overworked muscle (Travell and Simons, 1993). Compromised foot structure leads to trigger points in compensating muscles of the lower legs, upper legs, hips and even the torso head and neck as the body strives to create stability on top of an unstable base. Myofascial release techniques using devices such as foam rollers are an effective method for releasing trigger points, easing pain and restoring muscle function (Cheatham et al., 2015), but prevention is always better than cure.
Foot structure and function can be restored by spending time loading the feet with bodyweight in functional footwear, thus removing the root cause of the trigger point problem by creating stable feet and facilitating pain-free movement and achievement of exercise and health goals.