Dr. Berg's Foot Facts

Posts for: September, 2011

By Rion A. Berg, DPM
September 29, 2011

Some of you may have noticed that more often than not, a treatment option in podiatry involves the physical therapy modality of stretching. The reason for this is simple: when a muscle is allowed to tighten up, it changes the function of that muscle and alters how the body deals with the motions and forces of everyday life. The reasons that muscles tighten up are many, including overuse, underuse, and abnormal use (such as when you walk a certain way to avoid pain). A tight muscle acts as a shortened muscle, and in the case of the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) in the lower leg, a tight muscle can cause major deforming forces on the both the structure and function of the foot.

The calf muscles (made up of 3 parts: 2 heads of the gastrocnemius muscle and 1 soleus muscle; see picture) originate on the back of your thigh, with the gastrocnemius just above the back of your knee and the soleus just below the back of the knee. They then travel down the back of your lower leg, where all three parts join together as your Achilles tendon to insert into the back of your heel.  If the calf muscles are tight (and therefore shortened), they pull on your heel bone and cause your foot to function in abnormal ways with each step you take. This is why stretching your leg muscles is important as both a prevention and treatment of many types of lower extremity injuries.  

You should try to stretch your leg muscles every day, including calf muscles (both gastrocnemius and soleus), hamstrings (back of thigh), and quadriceps (front of thigh).

Today we will discuss one easy calf muscle stretch you can do at home with just a few free minutes. This set of stretches is called a “Wall Stretch.” Start by putting your hands flat on a wall and step one foot back about one large step (this will be the leg you are stretching). Keep this back leg straight, your toes pointed forward and try to keep your heels and toes flat on the floor. You can then lean forward and bend the front leg as you feel the back leg’s gastrocnemius muscle stretch.

Make sure you are not stretching to the point of pain! Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then relax. Switch legs until each leg is stretched 3 times for 30 seconds each time. The stretch for the soleus muscle is very similar, except this time you will keep the front leg bent AND the back leg bent, while then leaning forward and feeling a slightly deeper stretch.  Switch legs back and forth until each leg again is stretched 3 times for 30 seconds each time.

Make sure you that you never cause pain by stretching and that you maintain your balance at all times. Daily stretching, as well as daily exercise, will go a long way in promoting a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle, as well as one good pair of happy feet.  

Rion A. Berg, DPM
Podiatrist and Board Certified Foot Surgeon

Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City
2611 NE 125th St., Ste. 130
Seattle, WA 98125

Our office is located in Lake City within 10 minutes of Shoreline, Kenmore, Juanita, Sandpoint, Meadowbrook, Wedgewood, Maple Leaf, Broadview, Greenwood, Northgate, and Pinehurst. Parking is free.

By diane
September 22, 2011
Category: Uncategorized
Tags: Untagged

It appears as though being a wildly popular style icon and designer does not prevent your body from retaliating with pain when you abuse your body’s natural function. Victoria Beckham, in all her glory and glamour, has been forced to at least temporarily stop wearing her signature stilettos due to a slipped disc in her back causing too much pain to bend or move at times.

Your spine, or backbone, is composed of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between adjacent vertebrae are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance, whose main purpose is to cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. A herniated disk, or slipped disk, is a disk that slips out of place or ruptures. Often times, this causes the disk to press on a nerve that is exiting your spinal cord, causing back or leg pain that could involve tingling burning sensations or even numbness. While we cannot say with 100% certainty that Ms. Beckham’s back injury is directly related to wearing high heels, it is quite obvious that wearing such shoes drastically changes the way your muscles and joints function, all the way from your feet to your head. Because of this concept that every body part is connected in a chain-like fashion from top to bottom, a podiatrist will often use visual gait analysis as part of their physical exam to watch how each part of the body is functioning and how abnormal function may be contributing to your symptoms.

When you wear high heels, the toes are kept pointed more toward the ground, which puts more force through your toes with each step, rather than the force from the ground going more through your heel, which is built to absorb more force and stress than your toes are.

High heels also cause your calf muscles (backs of your lower legs) to shorten, which can eventually cause your knee to stay bent slightly at all times. This, in turn, causes your hamstrings (muscles on the backside of your thighs) to tighten and shorten, thus limiting their natural range of motion and prohibiting proper function. These tight hamstrings also attach to your pelvis, or hip bones, causing it to tilt backward slightly, which causes you to lose a natural curve in your lower back, and this misalignment can strongly contribute to a majority of the low back pain problems experienced in our country.

The spine, or backbone, is meant to be a shock absorber amongst other things, but with long time use of high heels, the backbone changes its position in order to compensate for how off balance and misaligned high heels can cause your body to be. When the backbone changes its position, shock absorption is lost and more force from walking goes through all the wrong places. With so much unnatural alignment all along the chain of your body, muscles start overworking or pulling at abnormal angles and joints start taking on more stress than they should, which leads to a multitude of injuries, including, but certainly not limited to, back pain, tendon or ligament trauma, and joint arthritis.

While no conclusive evidence has been found as to how much or how little high heel use is okay, in the end, it is always natural for the body to function with the heel on the ground. Therefore, if you MUST wear high heels, it is a good idea to limit how much time you spend in them. You should spend at least as much time in proper supportive shoe gear as you do in high heels. You should ask yor doctor how to develop a daily stretching and exercise program to make sure your calf muscles, hamstrings, and back muscles stay loose and functional. our office immediately! Often times, there is a simple answer to leg and back pain, and it starts with the feet.

Rion A. Berg DPM
Podiatrist and Board Certified Foot Surgeon

Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City
2611 NE125th St, Ste 130

Our office is located in Lake City within 10 minutes of Shoreline, Kenmore, Juanita, Sandpoint, Meadowbrook, Wedgewood, Maple Leaf, Broadview, Greenwood, Northgate, and Pinehurst. Parking is free. For bus commuters, routes 41 and 243 stop right in front of our office at 26th & NE 125th.


By Rion A. Berg DPM
September 02, 2011
Tags: seattle   diabetes   Rion A. Berg   Tingling   Infection  

Last week we learned a little about  Diabetes Mellitus (DM) Type 1 and 2 and Pre-diabetes, as well as what can cause them. This week we are going to discuss some of things DM does to your body.

Most of the damaging effects of DM are due to the high levels of glucose streaming in the blood (aka – high blood sugar). That is why it is so important to control your blood sugar, first and foremost by diet and exercise, and lastly by medicine prescribed by your doctor. The effects of DM can be divided into two categories: “macrovascular” (effects are seen in larger blood vessels) and “microvascular” (effects are seen in smaller sized blood vessels). “Macrovascular” damage from DM can lead to heart disease, stroke, or a buildup of fatty plaques in the walls of the blood vessels which starts to clog up the vessels, like dirt and hair in a shower drain, which makes it hard for blood to flow normally (this is call “atherosclerosis”). Consult your primary care physician for more information regarding these topics.

Today we are going to focus on some of the “microvascular” effects of DM. There are three main areas where symptoms are seen with uncontrolled high blood sugar. The first two areas are “retinopathy” and “nephropathy”. Retinopathy refers to damage to the retina of the eye that involves blurring of vision or possibly seeing “floaters” or dark spots floating around in your normal vision. Nephropathy refers to damage to various parts of the kidneys. The exact causes of damage and areas that become dysfunctional may vary, but the end result is a decline in the normal function of the kidney, which can progress to a very serious life-threatening problem over time if not addressed.

The third area of microvascular damage caused by DM, and the area we will talk most about today, is called neuropathy”, which is  damage to nerves in arms, legs, and torso. Nerves actually have a cell body and a long tail, so to speak, that connects body parts to the brain for both muscle function and sensations such as pain, temperature, and touch. When blood sugar is high and uncontrolled, early symptoms are usually related to nerve damage. This is seen as tingling, burning, pins-and-needles sensations or total loss of feeling that usually starts at the ends of the toes and progresses towards your foot and eventually up your legs. Since feeling is impaired at this point, a person would not be able to tell if something was wrong with his or her feet unless he looked at them closely every single day.

Diabetes also causes a person to be more prone to infections which, combined with the loss of feeling in the feet, can lead to serious ulcerations and infections that, in the worst case scenario, could lead to amputation of a foot or entire leg. There are many other possibilities that this loss of feeling could lead to, including fungal infections, joint dysfunction or collapse, skin and bone infections, decreased blood supply leading to poor health of your skin and toenails, and overall unawareness of traumatic injuries such as cuts or blisters.

If you are experiencing any tingling, burning, numbness or other abnormal feeling in your toes, feet, legs, or anywhere in your body, you should contact Dr. Berg immediately. Call our office at 206.368.7000 or request an appointment through our website.

It is best to catch these symptoms early to find out the cause and start a treatment plan to slow down or stop the progression of nerve damage (and other damages previously discussed, as well as those not discussed in this blog).

Persons diagnosed with diabetes mellitus should inspect their feet daily to check for open wounds or other changes, as well as have regular visits to a podiatrist, who is specialized in detection and treatment of effects of diabetes in the feet. Whether you have been diagnosed with diabetes or think you are in perfect health, the number one way to take care of your body, prevent or treat diabetes, and ensure the long-term health of your feet is simple: exercise regularly and develop a healthy well-balanced diet.

It starts with small changes and a daily choice to make yourself better. Consult Dr. Berg today if you are concerned in any way about the health of your legs or feet. 

Rion A. Berg DPM
Podiatrist and Board Certified Foot Surgeon

Located In Northeast Seattle

Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City
2611 NE 125th, Ste 130
Seattle, WA 98125