Walking often tops the list of healthy ways to stay in shape and in good health. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes, and you’ve got yourself a convenient, easy, and free way of staying in shape. But walking, as effortless as it may seem to some people, causes others a lot of pain and discomfort.
According to Prevention.com, every year, there are about 250,000 walkers who stop their walking routine due to a walking-induced pain. In many cases, leg or foot pain is caused by wearing improper footwear that provides insufficient support and can contribute to stress and fatigue. In other cases, walking can aggravate an older exercise injury left untreated and turn mild pain into a chronic problem. Here are some of the most common walking pains that can hinder you from reaching your fitness goals and advice on how to safely avoid them with the help of alternative therapies.
What it is: Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common orthopedic complaints. The plantar fascia, which is the thin ligament connecting your heel to the front of your foot, acts as a shock absorber and supports the arch in your foot. However, these ligaments can sustain a lot of wear and tear from any sudden change or increase in your regular walking routine. Such pressure will cause the ligaments to become inflamed, damaged, or torn, leading to acute heel pain and stiffness.
What to do about it: To loosen up the tissue, start with this simple stretch: sit with the injured foot across the opposite thigh and pull the toes towards the shin with your hand until you feel a stretch in arch. (You should be able to feel the band of tissue along the sole of your foot with the opposite hand.) Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat it ten times. If the stretching doesn’t help or your pain worsens, ask a chiropractor to perform adjustments on your foot and suggest appropriate lifestyle modifications to relieve pain and restore function.
What it is: As the name suggests, runner’s knee is a common complaint among runners. But it can also affect any person who performs a lot of knee bending – walking, jumping, or bicycling. The pain is usually throbbing and is localized in front of your kneecap. Common causes for runner’s knee include overuse, direct trauma, misalignment, or muscle imbalance.
What to do about it: Shift to another sport or activity until the pain in your knee recovers, typically 2 to 3 months. Minor cases of runner’s knee can be treated with the R.I.S.E (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) method. If the pain doesn’t subside, you may need to address the underlying conditions that cause the misalignment in your knee, and this can be achieved with soft tissue therapy such as myofascial release or chiropractic manipulation. A custom exercise plan designed by your therapist can help strengthening weak areas and reduce discomfort during your recovery.
What it is: Shin splints, or the medial tibial stress syndrome, are probably the most universally-known injury in walkers and runners. They typically present as an aching pain below the knee, either on the front outside part of the leg or the inside of the leg. They are commonly seen in walkers who don’t build their mileage gradually or switch from walking on flat surfaces to climbing hills, forcing the foot to flex more and overworking the weaker shin muscles.
What to do about it: Strengthening your calf and shin muscles can help absorb some of the shock of walking or running, and in turn lead to a stronger tibia. In the meantime, stay in shape by performing low-impact exercises such as swimming or cycling. If your shin splint is brought about by improper biomechanics of the foot and knee, a chiropractic evaluation can determine the discrepancies of the spine, pelvis, and ankles and help alleviate your pain.
What it is: The Achilles tendon is one of the longer tendons in the body, which stretches from the bones of your heel to the calf muscles. If the tendon is being put under excessive strain due to high-impact exercise or strenuous workouts, it can become inflamed and painful. If ignored, Achilles tendinitis can lead to tendon tear or rupture.
What to do about it: Sometimes, the treatment for Achilles tendinitis can be as simple as switching to a lower-impact exercise routine or getting more rest. It is important to have your injured foot assessed for any biomechanical problems. Gentle stretching or isotonic strengthening exercises can be prescribed as part of your chiropractic treatment plan to improve the healing of tendons and return to your normal routine.
What it is: Soreness on the outside of your hip or knee can be a symptom of bursitis. Bursitis is the irritation or inflammation of the bursa, a sac filled with lubricating fluid found between tissue and skin whose role is to decrease rubbing and friction. Overuse, direct injury to the joint, incorrect posture, or poor conditioning before exercise can lead to this condition.
What to do about it: Treatment of bursitis can be difficult and complex, but you have several alternative remedy choices to efficiently manage the condition. Massage therapy, stretching and rehabilitation exercises, ultrasound, electric stimulation, acupuncture, and nutritional advice provided by an experienced therapist can promote fast natural healing and reduce the risk of future injury.
These are just a few of the conditions that cause leg pain and may affect walking, but there are many others that can restrict your range of motion and prevent you from reaching your fitness goals. Contact your local chiropractic clinic to get a complete assessment of your condition and find out how you can heal your foot and leg pain safe and naturally.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.