Let’s talk about your core. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, there’s a definite correlation between your feet and your back: the ball of your foot coincides with your upper back and the heel with your tailbone. Therefore, the arch of your foot is in line with your spine. These areas, in both the foot and the spine, are formed around ball-and-socket joints. When the arch of your foot collapses, your spine will bend forward and the back will flatten. Similarly, when your arches are too high, your spine becomes overly arched. Strengthening can help take the pressure off of your feet. A stronger body frame is able to hold up weight better, thus putting less of a burden and impact on your feet. This can make recovery from heel pain much easier.
I’ve designed an easy strengthening system called the Dowel Exercises and below are the exercises for the upper and lower back. For all exercises in this program, I use a short, two-foot-long dowel. Any stick will do as long as it’s straight, has a medium thickness, and won’t break when you apply pressure to it. Start with two repetitions for the first week and then you can increase by one repetition each week thereafter.
REMEDY #8: STRENGTHEN
II. WHAT TO STRENGTHEN
Dowel Back Exercise: Begin this exercise with both hands holding the dowel above your head. Then inhale for four counts as you bring the dowel behind your shoulders. Keeping your wings (the scapular bones under your shoulders) tightly together, hold for two counts. Finally, exhale and release the dowel to the starting position over four counts. You can easily do this exercise while you’re sitting down in front of your computer at work. Every 20 minutes do a few repetitions to fight the gravity that forces you to lean forward and this will help improve your back health.
Abdominal Crunch: Exercises, such as sit-ups, will build the strong abdominals you need to support your body.
- Dowel Squat: Start this exercise standing with the dowel in front of you and your arms parallel to the floor. Over four counts, inhale as you squat to an almost seated position. You should keep your back straight, as shown in the picture. Hold the squat for two counts and then exhale as you return to the starting position over four counts. This strengthens the lower back, thighs, buttocks, and leg muscles.
- Stork Leg: While walking, we are rarely on both feet. Therefore, we need to strengthen each leg to stand on its own. Stand barefoot on one leg with the other leg bent 90 degrees at the knee for five minutes. Repeat with the other leg. Once you’re comfortable with this exercise to try doing it with your eyes closed. Practice this while brushing your teeth, drying your hair, or doing any other activities standing up.
- Ankle Alphabets: Sit in a chair with one leg crossed over the other and the knee bent. Keeping the big toe rigid, start writing the alphabets from “A” to “Z” in the air with your foot by rolling the ankle. Repeat with the other foot.
- Towel Curls: Curl your toes on the edge of a towel and scrunch or drag the towel toward your body. You can also pick up marbles, instead of towels, with your toes.
- Up to the Wall: Lie on your back and “climb up and down the walls” with your feet. Do this with one foot and then the other. This exercise increases foot strength and restores circulation to numb, tired feet.
Do strengthening exercises regularly and make sure to gently stretch your arch afterward. While exercising you may feel the pain disappearing, tempting you to push harder, but it is often a false signal, so don’t do it! You may not be ready for that amount of exertion yet and doing so will only aggravate the injury and set you back. If you have heel pain, strengthen other parts of the body with low-impact exercises such as swimming, running in deep water (with a floatation device), cycling, stationary biking, and short-distance walking.