How to eliminate back pain: Enhancing foot and ankle mobility
Saturday December 1, 2018

How to eliminate back pain (Part 4)

Enhancing foot and ankle mobility

by Dr. Troy Vander Molen, PT, DPT

It’s time for part four of our series: 5 Reasons Why Your Back Hurts When You Walk. This month, we’re focusing on how to eliminate lower back pain by focusing on limited foot and ankle mobility.

Astym deep tissue massage Des MoinesStudies demonstrate that every time your foot hits the ground, your body absorbs forces equivalent to two-three times your body weight. If your foot is stiff and does not flatten when you walk like it is designed to do, increased forces are transmitted to your spine, which increases pressure on the spine and can irritate the joints and nerves in the spine.

The following activities are a good start if you need to enhance foot and ankle mobility, but it is always wise to seek the advice of a lower back pain specialist to assess your specific needs and find the exact program to overcome your unique issues. Remember, if you want good outcomes, it is always better to assess than to guess.

  1. Foam Rolling & Massage Sticks – The same foam roller you use for thoracic mobility can be used to enhance foot and ankle mobility. Just sit on the ground and place your calf on the foam roll with your other leg on top. Roll over the calf while actively moving the ankle for a minute or two, stopping briefly on any trigger points you feel.

If you have difficulty creating enough force through the calf on the foam roller, you can also purchase a massage stick. Get in a half kneel position, lean forward, and push through the calf with the massage stick like Mike Reinold of Champion Physical Therapy & Performance in Massachusetts demonstrates in this short video.

  1. Calf Stretching – There are many ways to stretch the calf, but a method that works for nearly everyone is to get close to a wall and place the toes on one foot up on the wall while your heel touches the ground. Bring your body close to the wall until you feel a stretch on the back of your calf and hold for 15-30 seconds, like the people at Next Level Physical Therapy (Hamilton, NJ) demonstrate in this video.

  1. Simple Ankle Mobility Exercise – Hockey training expert Kevin Neeld shows how you can turn the previous calf stretch into a simple ankle mobility exercise by adding a dynamic movement element to the stretch in this video. If you look closely, you can see that his knee moves towards the wall in three planes: straight forward, slightly inward, and slightly outward.

  1. Advanced Ankle Mobility Exercise – Canadian chiropractor Jeff Cubos demonstrates another variation on ankle mobility in the half kneeling position using a dowel. Place the dowel just outside the fifth toe of the front foot. When you lean forward, bring the inside of your knee outside the dowel while keeping the bottom of your foot firmly planted on the floor. Check it out in this video.

In part five of this series, the Kinetic Edge team and I will continue to provide practical information on how to eliminate back pain by managing spine arthritis and/or stenosis. If you can’t wait for that information to be released and you have health insurance benefits that are scheduled to renew at the beginning of 2019, I welcome you to contact us today to set up a thorough evaluation with one of our lower back pain experts.

Even if you’re not experiencing pain currently but have dealt with it in the past, you’d likely benefit from the help of a knowledgeable physical therapist who can find and fix the issues that contribute to the pain. Fixing those root problems will reduce the likelihood of your pain returning.

Want to learn more about eliminating back pain? Check out the other articles from this series: