Our feet are amazing instruments of mobility. We take them for granted – yet they continue to serve us as best they are able.
Hammertoes and Bunions are a common problem with over 10% of people over 60 having one issue or both!
In a balanced body- when there is extension of one muscle or set of muscles, there is a corresponding flexion of the counterpart muscles. When this balanced give-and-take fails to occur, pathology is likely to develop. This is true whether we are talking about the feet or hands, the hips, knees, or shoulders, and even the spine and abdominal muscles.
In Hammertoes, there is a sort of tug of war going on between the muscles that LIFT the toes (extensors) and the muscles that CURL the toes (flexors). This causes a shortening of the toes by alternate buckling up and bending down at several of the toe joints. The big toe may be similarly impacted but it tends to move sideways, causing the inside corner of the toe bone to jut toward the body’s midline, or away from the rest of the foot- we call this a Bunion.
Common causes include:
- Shoes too tight or small (90% of women wear shoes that are too small)
- Imbalanced muscle strength/tone/flexibility in the foot or lower leg
- Genetic issues or neuro-muscular issues or disease such as diabetes.
Commonly surgery is recommended to either cut the ligaments, joint capsules, tendons or removing parts of the bones in the effort to either lengthen or shorten the muscles causing the shift in the toes that characterize hammertoes and bunions. While these surgeries may ultimately yield a positive result, there is a lengthy recuperative period and complications do occur. The most common complication is pain from reduced mobility – especially if there has been a fusion or wiring of the toe bones, and scar tissue.
Non-Surgical interventions generally include wearing shoes with a wider toe box, eliminating high heels and flip flops (which cause us to contract our toe muscles in attempt to control the shoe to keep it on the feet,) exercise or physical therapy, stretching the toe muscles etc. to create lengthening in the shortened areas or wearing spacers or braces. Another suggestion is to sleep with no covers pulling on the feet (having the covers pull the feet into a toes-pointed position is similar to wearing high heels all night.) Some also recommend walking barefoot for some period each day.
THIS is where massage comes in! Massage may be corrective, allowing the uncurling of the toes; in other instances is it palliative, reducing pain or allowing a delay in or preventing the need for surgery. Massage techniques for these issues take patience and skill; also the client must be prepared to participate by performing requested foot movements, and feedback regarding sensitivity levels etc. THIS is therapeutic massage therapy! This is where massage can shine for you!
In addition to massage and stretching activities, it is highly recommended that the person experiencing hammertoes and bunions begin a routine of soaking in either Epsom salts or Magnesium Chloride salts, and using topically applied magnesium supplementation at the site where it is needed. Magnesium (Mg) does a myriad of wonderful things inside our bodies (learn more from Transdermal Magnesium Therapy: A New Modality for the Maintenance of Health by Dr Mark Sircus or The Magnesium Miracle by Dr. Carolyn Dean. In muscles, Mg is REQUIRED for the muscle to relax!
In our Calcium fortified world, we tend to have an abundance of Calcium floating around in our tissues (Calcium is needed to contract the muscles) and not enough Magnesium to counterbalance it. We can- and should- ingest SOME Magnesium but the bowel quickly reaches a tolerance level that results in speeding up elimination (aka diarrhea.) By topical application, the digestion is circumvented, allowing our skin to absorb the magnesium our cells so dearly need.
You can order Topical Magnesium products here. OR ask your massage therapist if they perform a “Magnesium Massage”. If you are in Dallas, you can book a magnesium massage with me at The Finish Line Therapy Center 12700 Hillcrest Road suite 245. www.BookWithTeena.com
Note- Nothing in this article is intended to be used as a diagnosis, protocol or prescription. Ask your Dr. before beginning any program of exercise or nutrition. Learn as much as you can about the issues that impact you.