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At one point or another we all experience foot and ankle injuries. This can be caused by overuse, age, twists, blows or sudden changes in direction or terrain. These injuries can include sprains, strains, tendinitis, contusions, muscle cramping, muscle spasming or even bursitis.
The foot alone has 26 bones, 5 metatarsals, and 14 phalanges, not to mention, muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments. Think about the rest of the lower leg. There are a lot of possible injuries that can occur when you think about all of the bones and tissues that are in the lower limbs.
Classification of Lower Limb Injuries
Sprain - is an injury to the ligament and occur when a force produces a rupturing of the tissue and hemorrhage and swelling occur.
Strains – can be either muscle or tendon and are caused when a force produces a rupture of the tissue and causes hemorrhage and swelling.
Muscle contusions – are also known as bruises and they can result from a blow or hit.
Tendinitis - is a chronic injury that happens when the tendon becomes inflamed. Pain and swelling will occur.
Muscle Cramping - can be very painful. It is an involuntary contract that can alternate from contraction to relaxing or it can be contracted over a period of time. This is caused by a biochemical imbalance and is also known to be associated with fatigue and/or stress and dehydration.
Muscle Spasming - is a short contraction that is involuntary and caused by reflex action that is also biochemically driven. It can also be initiated by a sudden it to a muscle or the nerves that innervate it.
Fracture - this is a break in a bone. There are many types of fractures such as simple, compound, spiral and greenstick, just to name a few.
Care of Lower Limb Injuries
Take caution that if these injuries can range from mild to severe, and if you are ever unsure of if pain consists for long periods of time seek medical attention.
Sprain - R.I.C.E Rest, Ice, Compression Compression (wrap, etc), Elevation. If injury is mild use a protective brace (such as an ASO ankle brace).
Strain - R.I.C.E -Rest, Ice, Compression Compression (wrap, etc), Elevation. Apply heat after 72hrs.
Contusions - Arnica oil or cream will help heel the bruise faster (found at any local drug store.
Tendon Injury - Ice. Apply heat 72hrs after. Isometric exercises or eccentric exercises as tolerated will help
Muscle Cramping and Spasming - Compression and sometimes stretching helps. Ice can relive some pain. Make sure to rehydrate and to have enough calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Fracture -Immediately mobilize and seek medical attention.
Faciiatis - You will need to roll out the fascia with balls, rollers, etc, wear a splint to keep it mobilized at night, and wear birkinstock shoes (there design promotes spreading out of the facia).
A lot of these types of injuries can be prevented by doing simple lower leg and foot exercises at home. You can do them while watching tv, reading or even surfing the internet.
Lower Leg Strengthening Exercises
Balance Board -Balance on the troubled foot. Try and stay on as long as you can. For a more advanced challenge and weights, bands, med balls or try dribbling a basketball (anything with movement).
Ankle Alphabet - Use only the ankle and the foot. Trace letters of the alphabet 3x with capital letters, and 3x with lower case letters.
Elastic Tubing - Secure the tubing around a table leg and perform resisted dorsi flextion, platar flextion, inversion and eversion.
Triceps Surae Stretch - Keeping the back leg straight and your heel on the floor, lean against the wall until tension is felt in the calf muscle. For more of a challenge isolate the soleus an bend the front leg and back leg at the knees.
Foot Strengthening Exercises
Picking Up Objects - 20 x pick up small objects (dice, marbels etc) with toes and put them in a container. Or try using modeling putty to work the toe flexors.
Wobble Board - Stand on board single legged, or double legged. Move the board clockwise x 20 and then counter clockwise x 20.
Plantar Fascia Stretch - Stretch out your toes, stretch the achilles too by alternating between dorsi flexion and plantar flextion. This will aid in spreading out the fascia.
Balance - Use discs, bosu, swiss ball or an uneven surface. First on both feet then single legged. For more of a challenge try closing your eyes.
Toe Curls - Place your foot on the towel. Curl toes under so there is bunching under the foot x 20. For more of a challenge add a book or a weight on the towel. This will offer you more resistance.
Towel Crunches - Use a towel and place it on the bottom of your foot and push your toes and feet together to crunch the towel between your toes x 20.
[Alicia Bell is an Elite Personal Trainer, NCCP Sprint Coach, and a Training Advisor for RIVALUS.]