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The Foot - Part Three

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Author: Jonathan_Blood-Smyth

The Foot - Part Three

 

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The Foot - Part Three

By Jonathan Blood-Smyth

 

The thirties is the decade when our muscles, tendons and ligaments begin to exhibit a loss of elasticity which makes them more vulnerable to the stresses put upon them. With the explosion of health problems related to inactivity and eating too much, exercise is recommended as a solution to these ailments, increasing the likelihood of foot pathologies as our feet are more vulnerable with time. As we try and maintain or increase our levels of performance we need to plan this carefully and factor in enough time for rest and recuperation.

 

As we move into our thirties we look back to how fit we were in our twenties and try to regain that with an exercise programme, without allowing for the fact that our foot tissues cannot cope with the same level of stresses as before. The typical increase in weight that often comes with time imposes increased forces on the feet and can lead to pathological changes. As we get older it gets more important to prepare for sporting or other activities by stretching and warming up.

 

In our forties we lose more of the fatty padding from the undersides of our feet, with typical pains occurring in the ball, arch or heel of the foot. The foot tissues are both looser in terms of resisting stress and tighter in terms of being less easily flexible and extensible. Our feet may spread to some degree and by our fifties we may be wearing a bigger size than we did when we were young adults. Now we need to adjust our shoe sizes and comfort and add in strengthening and stretching exercises to maintain foot health.

 

There is a continuation of the ageing processes in the feet in the fifties as well as changes which occur due to our genetic heritage. Our parents could have had problems such as painful flat feet, osteoarthritis and bunions and these will have manifested themselves by now. Exercise in weight bearing poses increasing risk of injury as the thickness of the fatty cushioning continues to reduce with time. These activities which we want to pursue need to be planned to be successful.

The fatty padding under our feet may well thin and lose its shock absorption but the skin and other superficial tissues also thin and become drier. The heel can suffer cracks and fissures and can be painful or become infected. Moisturising cream is effective and simple in solving these problems and improves the way the feet look as well. Osteoporosis is a health problem which is rising in frequency and is an increasingly recognised problem in people over fifty years of age. Walking and running can cause March fractures, small stress cracks in the foot bones, which may indicate bone density is low.

 

The body has a reduced ability to resist and recuperate from the stresses of exercises and activity, making it harder to design and undertake an exercise programme which promotes effective fitness in our fifties. Co-existing medical conditions are often present such as obesity, cardiac disease and diabetes and exercise can be a useful treatment addition. Unfit people like this may find that their feet are not ready for the day they start their new exercise programme.

 

Nowadays the older idea of previous generations that when you retired it was pretty much the end of life has disappeared, with many millions of people looking forward to their older years in a spirit of activity. All this increased exercise puts significantly higher demands on the anatomical structures in our feet and this generates some pathological problems. But if the person has managed to set themselves a useful fitness program in their 50s if should be relatively straightforward to take this into their sixties.

 

With many years of walking and multiple physical activities behind them, surgery is most common for people in their sixties as foot problems interfere not only with sport and other vigorous options but starts to get in the way of walking and day to day life. Surgery may be advisable at this stage before the pathologies advance and become more difficult to manage surgically and tissues become less successful at recuperating when we are older.

 

Jonathan Blood Smyth, editor of the Physiotherapy Site, writes articles about Physiotherapists, physiotherapy, physiotherapists in Leeds, back pain, orthopaedic conditions, neck pain and injury management. Jonathan is a superintendant physiotherapist at an NHS hospital in the South-West of the UK.

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Our Foot Print
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