The subject “foot pain” is not new to anyone, but I will tell you something new that has been observed by doctors and came out this week in the New York Times: the pandemic has worsened the pain in the body of many people, including those in the feet. I say this because, in addition to myself, other doctors, in Brazil and abroad, have also noticed an increase in the number of requests from patients with foot pain. This phenomenon has been dubbed the “pandemic foot”, as said by physician Rock Positano, from the Foot and Ankle Non-Surgical Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York (USA).
Now, I will explain to you some factors that cause these pains and at the end I will give you relief tips and how to prevent them.
+ What is the core of the feet: exercises to strengthen this musculature
+ Foot exercises work strength and mobility: do it at home
The pandemic has worsened many people’s body aches, including those in their feet — Photo: Istock Getty Images
The pandemic has left us locked up at home for a long time, making us predisposed to some specific problems generated by:
- Increased sedentary behavior (many hours sitting in front of the computer and watching television);
- Increased anxiety (leading to binge eating and overweight)
- Loss of physical conditioning;
- In some cases, an increase in the practice of physical exercises that we were not used to doing before the pandemic;
- Lack of sun exposure, essential for vitamin D synthesis;
- Poor food, with a focus on ultra-processed foods.
For these reasons, many people were subjected to loss of bone density (due to lack of sun exposure and poor nutrition) and muscle atrophy without even realizing it, because while they were protecting themselves at home, their musculature was not very demanded. However, many new injuries have emerged or existing injuries have worsened with the return of daily activities, whether due to overuse, overload and lack of muscle strengthening and stretching. See some of them:
- Tendonitis: inflammation in the tendons. Excessive use of the foot and calf muscles without strengthening work can lead to inflammation of these tissues;
- Bursitis: Bursae are pouches that contain lubricating fluid and prevent friction between tendons, bones and adjacent structures. They can ignite for the same reason as before: overload and biomechanical errors;
- Plantar fasciitis: the plantar fascia is a fibrous tissue that supports the arch of the foot from the heel to the base of the toes, and it can become inflamed for some reasons, such as overweight, repetitive microtraumas and lack of stretching;
- Calcaneal spur: it is common to coexist with plantar fasciitis as it is linked to the same risk factors. It occurs by abnormal calcium deposition in the tissues around the heel bone towards the Achilles tendon or flexor digitorum brevis tendon;
- Repetitive stress fractures in the bones of the foot: it may present as a deep pain in the foot, which may originate from overload on one of the bones, generating insidious pain;
- Ankle sprain: I have seen several patients reporting that they ¨turned¨ their foot in apparently non-dangerous situations such as going down stairs and getting off the sidewalk on the street, due to weakness and imbalance of the muscles that support the ankle.
+ Plantar fasciitis: the use of ball massage to treat pain in the soles of the feet
Tips and exercises to help your feet
Picking up objects, such as towels, rugs, balls and pens, with your feet is a good form of exercise — Photo: Personal collection
In view of what has been said, how can you help your feet?
- Choose suitable shoes that are comfortable for you, that do not pinch your toes and that the sole is not too malleable: the idea is to provide stability, including many women who were grateful not having to wear heels during the pandemic;
- Prepare your body for physical exercises, because just like any machine that needs maintenance, you need to warm up. Stretch well and strengthen your muscles, so that you avoid injuries and maintain good joint mobility, as any deregulation can make you adopt vicious postures and overload other areas of your body, generating knee, hip and spine pain;
- Be patient with yourself, as your physical condition before the pandemic is not the same as it is now. Therefore, you need to adapt to activities that you used to perform or that, by chance, have recently started to be performed. So start slowly, progress your exercises safely. Especially if you were hospitalized with covid-19 or any other disease;
- The feet are often overlooked in the strengthening process, but they are the first to receive the impact with the ground. Therefore, there are some strengthening and relaxation exercises for the feet that are simple to perform, even at home, such as:
- Get some rug at home and try to wrinkle it with your toes, pulling it towards you and then away from you.
- Pretend that your toes are a pencil and pretend you are writing the letters of the alphabet.
- Get on a step and do up and down on your toes repeatedly.
- Stretch your calf: place your feet in front of each other and support your hands against the wall, leaning your torso forward. This way, you will feel the stretch in the calf of the rear leg and you will also be working the mobility of both ankles.
- Massage the soles of your feet: As you sit down to watch TV or read a book, take a small ball (tennis ball or a smaller one) and run your foot over it, massaging the entire sole of your foot.
These are some tips I’ve been giving to my patients on a daily basis and I’d like you to do the same. Remember to check if you have any previous pain or if you feel something during the exercises and look for specialized professionals to help you, in this case. Take care of the health of your feet!
Ana Paula Simões, an orthopedist and sports doctor, and Gustavo Prado, a medical student at the University Center of Volta Redonda – UniFOA.
* The information and opinions expressed in this text are the sole responsibility of the author, not necessarily corresponding to the point of view of ge / Eu Atleta.