You put your big toe in, you put your big toe out, you put your big toe in and you shake it all —OUCH.  It hurt to scrunch (flex) my big toe on the right foot. It hurt to move the big toe mound.  My right ankle would get stuck sometimes and give out sometimes. It hurt up the lateral seam (outside) of my leg and I would have numbness and tingling in the foot and up the leg. There was a lot of pain around the head of the fibula (bone on the outside of the leg just below the knee) and up into the IT band and right hip. I know everything is connected, but this is ridiculous.  I just want to do the hokey pokey.  Or walk.  Or practice yoga.  So I went to visit my friend Sarah Court.  Read her blogs on this site.  You won’t be disappointed.

Sarah gave me homework which included squatting more, lunging more, and strengthening my intrinsic foot muscles, ankles, calves — beginning to see a pattern? The homework also included, but was not limited to, scrunching up a bandana or a towel with my toes.  Over and over again, I would toe scrunch sitting at my computer.  Oh, and my least favorite homework, the heel lifts.  Just stand up and lift your heels 25 times!  I could barely get to 10 without my calves and lower legs feeling like they were on fire.

Improve your toe extension with your YTU Therapy Balls with the Toerection exercise.
Improve your toe extension using your YTU Therapy Balls and the Toerection exercise.

That same week, I also went to a Yoga Tune Up® class with Alexandra Ellis.  Read her blogs on this site. You won’t be disappointed.  The whole class was feet, ankles, calves, one ah-ha moment after another.  In that class, we did something called “Toerection.”  To do it, prop your big toe up on a therapy ball so that the big toe is at, or attempting, 60 degrees of extension (see image). Take the other foot forward and then lift the heel of the foot with the therapy ball. OH, MY, WOW.

I love to roll with the Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls and I roll my feet every day.  But I began to roll a little gentler and I added the toe stretch.   I also roll out the side of my leg and all around the head of the fibula.  Diane Mara has a great blog called Perplexing Peroneals to check out. The video shows rolling out the peroneals.  Read Diane Mara’s blogs on this site.  You won’t be disappointed.

Through my rolling and self study, I learned of the peroneous longus, also known as the fibularis longus, a muscle that runs from the big toe to the head of the fibula and is part of the sciatic nerve chain.  No wonder my big toe hurt, the head of the fibula hurt and my hip hurt all on the same side.  The big toe affects everything up above and what’s above affects everything below.  The fibularis longus everts the foot and assists in plantar flexion of the ankle, originating at the head of the fibula and proximal two-thirds of the lateral fibula and inserts at the base of the first metatarsal and medial cuneiform.  The innervation point?  L4,5 and S1. Pelvis, hips and low back connected to the head of my fibula and my big toe?  You betcha.

I noticed massive relief within a week of doing the following things every day (sometimes twice a day):

  • Gentle roll of the feet to wake them up, warm them up.
  • Toe scrunching with bandana or hand towel. Scrunch your toes to scrunch the fabric. Over and over again. (not as easy as it sounds.)
  • Toerection with therapy ball.  See a toerection video in Part 2 of this blog.
  • Heel raises- stand in tadasna and lift your heels off the ground as if coming to tip toes. Repeat up to 20 times.  Good luck.  If easy, do with one heel at a time.
  • Gentle rolling of glutes and IT band. Roll buttocks and all the way down the side of the thigh.
  • More intense rolling along the lateral seam of the leg and around the head of the fibula. (Diane Mara’s video.)
  • Squats
  • Lunges

These foot pain relief exercises took less than 20 minutes and if I only had five minutes, I would at least do one thing from the list.  My big toe mound pain is gone.  90 percent of the pain around the head of the fibula is gone.  My hip is happier.  And the numbness and tingling? Gone.  My sacrum/low back, SI joint also feeling more solid.  From working with my big toe and the head of my fibula?  I’m not a doctor, but I’m a believer that it’s all connected – treating one area treats all areas.

I’m not sure the if the focus of this blog is to visit your smart friends more often, read the blogs of your body nerd friends or if it’s just a reminder it’s not smart to be in and stay in pain.  There are so many simple tools that can and did help.  As a yoga teacher, it was super fun to bring heel raises into the class.  I always show up with different and challenging things to do and my students love that.  It’s all yoga.  It doesn’t have to be Down Dog to be yoga.  If you want to read a great blog on Down Dog check out mine.  You won’t be disappointed. 🙂

Tune back in Friday for a video of Toerection, toe scrunching and more!

Enjoyed this article? Read Healthy Feet, Happy Heart.

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