Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I was practicing yoga during my lunch break, and it got me thinking about how wonderful it is for my FEET! It increases my strength and flexibility. The range of motion of my joints is improved with each session, meaning I can move my joints more and with less pain than before. Further, soft tissue structures, like tendons, muscles, and the plantar fascia that extends along the bottom of the feet get lengthened the more I practice yoga. I found an interesting article from that I am inserting below about the benefits of yoga to the feet. Enjoy! Dr. Bender, 708-763-0580 Yoga for Foot Care article: Soothe your feet with these yoga poses for a whole mind and body relaxation. Happy Feet By Melanie Haiken They hold us up all day long, they get us everywhere we need to go, and they connect our bodies to the earth. Some yoga teachers even call the feet the "roots" of the body. Yet for all that our feet do for us, we don't do much for them in return. We cram them into tight shoes, pound along on them all day, and generally ignore them unless they're giving us serious trouble. The result is that at some point in their lives 7 of 10 people will suffer from foot problems, many of which are entirely preventable. Robert Kornfeld, a holistic podiatrist in New York City, says he's seen it all: people hobbling in with knobby, inflamed bunions and hammer toes, the dull throb of tendinitis, the achy soles of plantar fasciitis. Those aren't just niggling minor ailments; some foot problems can alter the foot's structure and trigger pain elsewhere in the body. "I sing that song to my patients," Kornfeld says: "'The foot bone's connected to the leg bone...'" In fact, experts say one of the most important reasons to treat foot problems early is to prevent them from throwing the knees, hips, back, and shoulders out of whack. And one of the best ways to take care of your feet is with yoga. "I recommend that all my patients start yoga immediately," Kornfeld says. "When you treat foot problems with yoga, you end up treating back pain, hip pain, all kinds of structural problems. Not only does it stretch out the muscles and lead to a greater range of motion, but it helps heal the root issue of inflammation as well." In fact, yoga gives feet a healthy workout that they rarely get any other way. "You couldn't ask for a better set of tools to reawaken the feet," says yoga teacher Rodney Yee, of the Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, California. Below, some tips from the experts on how best to use yoga to prevent or treat foot pain. Throw Your Weight Around The first place to begin building awareness of your feet is in standing poses such as Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Before you start the pose, think about how you naturally stand, suggests Janice Gates, a specialist in therapeutic yoga and the founding director of the Yoga Garden Studio in San Anselmo, California. Do you tend to put your weight on the inner edge of your foot, which tends to make your legs bow inward, or on the outer edge, which tends to make the knees bow out? (If you can't tell, check the bottoms of your shoes—you can often tell from the way the soles are wearing.) Notice how your weight falls, and then play with it by rocking forward and back, lifting first your toes, then your heels. If you tend to stand perched a little forward, try shifting your weight back a bit, and vice versa. Next, try lifting the arch of your foot while pushing down around the edges, creating both a sense of rooting into the earth and lifting energy up from the center, to form the Mula Bandha (Root Lock). "Sometimes I use the image of a jack-in-the-box: collapsing down, then springing up," says Gates. "You're pushing down to lift up." Once you start to do this, you'll find yourself more aware of your feet and distributing your weight better in your everyday life. Work Those Toes One great way to limber up stiff, underused feet is to work on the articulation of the toes, which in most of us have lost at least some of their range of motion, says Tias Little of Prajna Yoga in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Little considers the feet so important he not only focuses on them in his regular sessions, but has also created a separate class he calls Feet as Foundation. "Think of the way babies spread their toes and crawl by pushing off with them," he says. "We need to regain that." Little guides students through a routine in which they try to move each toe separately from the others and practice picking things up with their toes. In standing poses, focus on elongating the toes to stretch the sole of your foot. Press down into your heels at the same time you press forward with the base of the big and little toes, grounding forward with the ball of the foot. "Think of it as stretching the sole of the foot like a drum," Little says. This can improve circulation, pumping blood and lymph back toward your heart, and potentially stave off edema and varicose veins. Be Square Paying attention to—and correcting—the way your feet connect with the earth can correct foot and ankle problems that have repercussions throughout your body. For example, pronated feet (which roll inward from the ankle down) tend to cause knee problems and back pain. One way to think about foot stability is to think of your feet as having four corners: the big and little toes, and the outer and inner heels. Some teachers use the image of a car with four tires; others conjure up an X on the bottom of the foot. Use whichever works for you, because distributing your weight evenly across your feet is central to healthy alignment. And that, in turn, may lead to a surprise: By resolving foot problems, you may discover you've resolved your knee, back, hip, and shoulder problems as well. Anusara Yoga instructor Amy Elias Kornfeld—who works with patients of her husband, Robert Kornfeld—suggests looking down to make sure that the second toe, shin, and knee are all aligned as you start a pose. If you still need proof of the importance of foot positioning, think of what happens when you try to go into Vrksasana (Tree Pose) or Garudasana (Eagle Pose) and your feet aren't positioned right. "You have to use the feet or you fall over," Gates says. "Wherever the instability is, it's going to show up." There's a reason your yoga teacher is always telling you to spread your toes: Creating a stable base is essential when one foot is all you have to stand on. Stretch for Strength Any pose that stretches the arch or the sole of the foot improves flexibility and loosens tension. Little suggests a simple exercise to warm up your feet before yoga: Stand on a tennis ball and roll it back and forth under your foot, working the toes, the ball of the foot, the arch, and the heel. Virasana (Hero Pose) stretches the top of the foot and elongates the arch, while kneeling with the toes tucked under is the best way to lengthen the plantar muscles on the sole of the foot, which, when contracted, can become inflamed, leading to plantar fasciitis. Little also teaches students to go back and forth between Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) and what he calls "broken toe pose." From Vajrasana, lift your hips, curl your toes under and lift your heels, and then lean back so your weight rests on the "necks" (not the pads) of your toes. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) is another way to give the feet a good stretch; Gates teaches her students to lift the arches of the feet as high as possible, then extend the heels toward the floor to work the plantar fascia. "At first it feels impossible when you try to lower your heels, but it just takes practice. And it feels so good when you do," she says. Make these exercises part of your life, and your foot bones (not to mention your leg bones, hip bones, and maybe even your head bone) will be forever grateful.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Helping the Homeless During these COLD days!

Dr. Bender has a free foot clinic at Chicago's Pacific Garden Mission twice per month. During each visit, Dr. Bender and students at Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine care for homeless patients in Chicago, treating simple conditions like nails and callouses and more complicated conditions like foot infections, ulcers, fractures, and frostbite. These patients have very few places to go for good healthcare, so the services provided by the Pacific Garden Mission are very important. The foot clinic is in need of new Men's socks for the many homeless people that are served there each month. To donate socks, please contact Dr. Bender at or 708-763-0580. Thank you and stay warm!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Rasheed Wallace Being Treated for Jones Fracture

Rasheed Wallace, a New York Knicks player, has had an injury to his left foot since December, and recent X-Rays indicated that there is a Jones Fracture, which will require surgery. What is a Jone's Fracture? This is a break in the fifth metatarsal bone, on the outside of the foot. This area of the bone has a decreased supply of blood, which makes healing slower and more difficult than in other parts of the foot or body. X-Rays are necessary to diagnose this condition, along with a thorough clinical exam. Surgery is indicated if the fracture is out of alignment, there is a gap, there is delayed healing, or if the patient is very active. Many patients heal well with immobilization, but this often takes at least 8 weeks. Bone stimulators can be used to increase the rate of healing, if covered by insurance. If you have a foot problem that needs attention, you can schedule an appointment with Dr. Bender by calling 708-763-0580 (Oak Park) or 773-776-3166 (Chicago/63rd).