How Foot Mobilisation Therapies (FMT) can help prevent trips and falls
9-35% of people over the age of 65 will fall each year and the incidence of falls increases with age and frailty. Falls can also lead to further complications and loss of mobility. Prevention is definitely better than cure in this case!
The reasons we become more prone to tripping as we age are many and varied, but one factor to consider is the loss of flexibility in the joints of the feet. Our feet are very complex structures, consisting of 26 bones, 30 joints and 20 muscles. Our barefoot ancestors would have had broad, strong feet that could adapt to different terrain with strong, mobile toes to help stabilise and control the foot. Despite being small structures (in relation to the rest of our bodies) they can hold us still and upright, and allow us to walk, run, and jump. Yet years of wearing shoes, and becoming increasingly more inactive means that our feet lose a lot of their inherent strength and mobility.
Add into this decline old injuries, conditions such as arthritis or diabetes, and our feet just don’t work as well as they should. Not only are your joints less able to respond, muscle strength declines and the feedback from your feet to your brain (proprioception) also declines.
However, it is never too late to improve foot function. Simple things you can do yourself include walking barefoot when possible (NB this is not recommended if you have reduced sensitivity in your feet ‘neuropathy’) and doing exercises to strengthen the arch and toes. Toe scrunches for example, can be done whilst watching TV. Put a cloth on the floor (a tea towel will do) and starting at the edge closest to you grab the cloth with your toes and pull it towards you inch by inch. This gets the toes moving and also works the muscles in the arch of the foot. If you find it tricky to start with, persevere! You will soon notice an improvement.
Another simple exercise that can help free up tight joints in the middle of your foot is to roll a tennis ball under your arch. Do this whilst seated and roll the ball clockwise, anticlockwise, towards the toes and back to the heel. Push down as hard as is comfortable and the ball will help to open up those small joints that make up the arch.
However, if you feel that you need more help to get mobile, if the joints feel particularly stiff and unresponsive, then talk to us about a course of FMT. We work consistently over a 6 week period to free up joints that have become ‘stuck’. The movements we use re-educate both the joints and the surrounding soft tissues and stimulate the production of synovial fluid (the ‘oil’ that keeps the joints moving smoothly). The movements also help to switch back on the sensory nerves that feed back to the brain giving information about your foot’s position and allowing the motor nerves to respond accordingly.
Watch the short video on the website or ask your Podiatrist for more information.