People who suffer from chronic back pain are often searching for new ways to find relief. Before trying an intervention like minimally invasive laser spine surgery, it’s important to have explored more conservative therapies. This kind of trial-and-error can be frustrating, but you need to know that your pain isn’t responsive or doesn’t decrease enough before you take the next step and begin looking at solutions like minimally invasive surgery.
Trying a new type of exercise or increasing overall fitness are both frequently suggested early therapies for people with back pain, but one area that’s often overlooked is exercising the feet and ankles. In fact, problems with the feet and ankles are sometimes the source of pain experienced in the back, neck, or shoulders. Here are some ideas for some simple exercises you can do at home to exercise your feet and ankles to improve balance and posture.
Grip and Release
Start with some stretches. Just as with other muscle groups, it’s important to warm up your feet before you do more intensive exercises. Stand with your feet flat on the floor. Grip the floor with your toes for ten seconds at a time, taking ten second breaks in between. Repeat this five times—that’s a set. Next, still standing, spread your toes apart as far as you can and hold for ten seconds. Rest for ten seconds, and then repeat. Again, five repeats is a set.
Lie on your back, and extend your right leg above you. Only stretch as far as you can—if you need to support your raised leg with your hands or with a chair, that’s okay. With your right leg up, rotate your ankle in a full circle ten times. Lower your right leg, then repeat with your left—that’s one rep. Do this complete exercise five times for a set.
This one might feel silly, but it’s a helpful strengthener for your feet. Find some small objects from around your house—think pens and pencils, small toys, really anything that’s fairly small and light but not flat. Spread these on the floor next to a chair. Holding the back of the chair with your left hand for balance, use your right foot to pick up and then drop each one of the objects. You’ll use your toes, but this also involves a fair amount of ankle flexion. Once you’ve moved everything with your right foot, change positions so that you’re facing the other way and holding the chair with your right hand. Now repeat, picking up each object with your left foot.
Last, walk across the room on just the toes and balls of your feet. Try to make it as far as you can, but don’t tiptoe for more than twenty seconds at a time. Repeat this three times, resting for ten seconds in between each walk. You might feel like you’re pretending to be a ballerina (or maybe a jewel thief), but this is a helpful exercise for strengthening your ankles and improving balance.
Roll It Out
To cool down and relax your feet, while seated place a tennis ball (or another, similar sized ball) beneath the center of your right foot. Use your foot to gently roll the tennis ball back and forth—don’t grip it, just roll it around under your foot. After 30 seconds to a minute, switch and roll the ball with your left foot.
At the Spine Institute Northwest, our specialists work together to provide patients with coordinated care. In addition to minimally invasive spine surgeons, we also have a podiatrist and a doctor of sports medicine on staff. Bringing together these different areas of expertise can help us develop a solution that’s the right fit for you. To learn more, call the Spine Institute Northwest at 888-712-0318.