Your body has many interrelated systems. When one part is struggling, it can have a knock-on effect on other aspects of your health, sometimes in surprising ways.
So, what about your feet? How do they affect your overall health?
What are your feet for?
Your foot is a complex structure that includes:
- 26 bones
- 29 muscles
- Several major nerves
- Ligaments (like the plantar fascia) and tendons.
Your foot performs several key functions. It acts as a:
- Platform so you can stand
- Shock absorber to manage the impact of walking, running or jumping
- Lever to propel you forward when you move.
How do your feet affect your health?
Your feet are far more than two ‘plates of meat’ (to use a bit of Cockney rhyming slang) at the far end of your body. They’re the foundation for your whole musculoskeletal structure.
Well-functioning feet make a huge difference to your overall well-being. Conversely, foot problems can lead to a number of issues in other parts of your body. Here are a few of them.
About 4 in 5 of us will experience lower back pain at some point in our lives and it can have a big impact. Lower back pain costs the Australian health system $4.8 billion each year and is the leading cause of lost work productivity and early retirement.
Back pain has many possible causes, and your feet can be exacerbating or be the root cause of those problems.
So what does back pain have to do with your feet? Well, issues with your feet can affect your posture and your shock absorption. Foot issues that could lead to back pain include:
- Low arches/overpronation – if you have flat feet with collapsed arches, your legs may rotate inwards, which increases the curve in your spine and can cause pain in your lower back.
- High arches/overspination – Feet with high arches tend to be more rigid, meaning they’re less able to absorb shock. When shock (from walking, running or jumping) isn’t absorbed by your feet, it travels up your skeleton to your lower back.
- Foot pain – When your feet hurt, you tend to walk differently in an attempt to make it more comfortable. But that compensation has consequences, including back pain.
When you have low arches, your feet pronate excessively, which can twist your knees inwards. That knock-kneed position can pull your patella tendon (around your knee cap) in the wrong direction and, over time, this leads to pain, especially when you have to bend your knee.
Good posture starts with the position of your feet. When your feet are strong, your knees, hips and lower back are in the right position to support your upper body properly.
Poor posture isn’t just about looking hunched rather than tall. Problems relating to poor posture include:
About 1.5 million Australians live with diabetes, which causes too much glucose to build up in your bloodstream. Over time, diabetes can cause nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy, which may mean you lose sensation in your feet.
That may mean you don’t feel pain in your feet as easily as you should. When you don’t notice a cut or blister, you don’t do anything about it – and that can increase the risk of infection. Diabetes may also reduce blood flow in your feet, making it harder for infections to heal. If nothing is done, there’s a risk of serious problems such as ulcers, gangrene or amputation.
How does podiatry help?
Podiatrists are highly trained allied health professionals who focus on disorders of the feet, ankles and lower limbs.
Your podiatrist can:
- Evaluate the biomechanics of your foot
- Prescribe and create customised orthotics to correct any biomechanical faults
- Treat foot injuries such as wounds or ulcers
- Perform diabetic foot checks to assess nerve sensation and blood supply to your feet
- Prevent and manage foot pain such as plantar fasciitis or arthritis
- Advise on appropriate footwear.
Podiatry care is an important part of preventive healthcare and active management of existing conditions. It helps to protect your overall health.
How can Gen Health Hamilton help?
Simply put, if your feet don’t work – you don’t work, at Gen Health Hamilton, we’re proud to have an excellent podiatry team, including an endorsed podiatrist (who has completed additional training to prescribe medications, saving you a trip to the GP).
We can help you with a wide range of foot-related problems, including:
- Heel pain, shin splints, arch or Achilles problems
- Bunion management, forefoot or arthritic pain
- Footwear management, extra depth shoes, running shoes, lifestyle shoe, work boot recommendations
- Stress fractures, post-surgery foot and ankle care, surgical removal of in-growing toenails
- Children’s foot assessment and posture analysis
- Running technique and efficiency
- Diabetes foot care and education, neuropathy management
- Skin and nail conditions including painful or fungal toenail management
- Plantar warts, cracked heels, corns and callus.
Our podiatrists also perform shockwave therapy and prolotherapy.
Please book an appointment today.
All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.