STACEY'S STORY — Hip and Knee Pain? Maybe It’s Your Feet.
Stacey, 49, has had mild pain in her left hip and left knee for years. Despite this, she is physically active, and takes long walks and bike rides. She associated her chronic hip pain with an injury she got while working out at a gym in her 20's. And she thought that her periodic knee pain, which sometimes “clicks” in addition to hurting after exercise, was hereditary since her siblings have knee problems.
She was worried they may have become joint issues rather than muscular ones, and feared arthritis might result. Stacey sought the help of a personal trainer who she assumed would give her exercises to strengthen the muscles around her hip and knee to alleviate pressure on the joints. But instead, her trainer first motioned her to walk across the floor so he could examine her gait. He asked her to pay careful attention to how she placed her left foot and ankle when she stood. To her surprise, she looked down and realized that her left ankle turned sharply inward rather than remaining straight to hold her weight and balance that side.
The trainer asked whether Stacey experienced leg or foot cramps. She admitted that her feet and calves would sometimes cramp when lying in bed. After instructing her to do several exercises as he watched, he announced that her feet and ankles were definitely weak, resulting in improper alignment. And this was the problem that had probably caused past injuries since these dramatically affect the entire leg and hip alignment. He focused her work on these areas, giving specific exercises to strengthen feet muscles for support and increase stability and range of motion in the ankle.
The daily exercises were easy, and Stacey did them at home without equipment. In addition, he asked that she simply be more conscious of how she placed her left foot as she climbed stairs, stood to prepare dinner, and planted her foot when she walked. These tips provided immediate benefits.
Feet & Ankle Exercises Given to Stacey:
1. Toe curl. Stand barefoot with toes of one foot at the edge of a towel and start flexing (curling) your toes to pull the towel up under your toes and draw it closer to you. Hold each curl action a few seconds. Do with both feet for 20 pulls. Then try a similar movement while sitting to pick up marbles or a pencil with your toes.
2. Tennis ball roll. While standing, put pressure on your foot as you roll a tennis ball or other small, slightly soft ball under the foot from toes to heal. Do this repeatedly on both feet to stimulate and massage each muscle and help relieve discomfort in the arches and balls of the feet.
3. Single leg balance. Stand on one foot and try to balance for at least 60 seconds. When you have accomplished this on each foot, add a second exercise. While standing on one foot, make circular motions with the other foot raised slightly off the floor, first left circles, then right circles. Work up to 30 circles in each direction on each foot.
4. Standing heel-toe raise. Stand at a kitchen counter, using it for stability. Slowly go up onto your toes, with weight on balls of feet, and then slowly lower yourself back down with very controlled movement. Keep ankles straight as you do this. Then, balance your weight onto your heels, raising your toes into the air as far as you can, and then slowly lower them. Do this 10 times on each foot.