The New York Times reports that three out of every four people in the United States can expect to experience some level of foot pain at least once, if not more.
The College of Podiatry further shares that some of the most common foot problems experienced by individuals nationwide include heel pain related to plantar fasciitis or bursitis, and osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the joints in the feet.
Not only can chiropractic help with these types of painful lower limb conditions, but many DCs indicate that using instruments during their patient’s treatment sessions can oftentimes make them more effective.
“One of the biggest foot problems we see in our office is plantar fasciitis,” says Scott Rosner, a DC who sees patients at Wholebody Solutions in Quincy, Massachusetts and is the team physician and medical director for the Boston 13s rugby team. Healthline agrees that “plantar fasciitis is one of the most common orthopedic complaints” and it occurs when the plantar fascia ligament that runs from heel to foot becomes painful and stiff due to inflammation.
Though causes of this particular foot issue include being overweight, running, and spending a lot of time on your feet, Rosner, who is also an adjunct instructor of anatomy and physiology at Quincy College, goes on to say that “determining the cause of the plantar fasciitis is very important to determine how to treat the plantar fasciitis.” When it’s brought on from overuse and tightness of the plantar fascia, Rosner utilizes instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, or IASTM.
Research has confirmed that IASTM is beneficial for treating plantar fasciitis. For instance, one case report published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine in March 2012, involved a 10-year-old football player who had been struggling with bilateral plantar fasciitis for three weeks. After undergoing six weeks of IASTM combined with manipulative therapy and home rehabilitation exercises, the patient reported no more pain and an improvement in ability to participate in daily activities.
The specific technique that Rosner utilizes is FAKTR, or functional and kinetic treatment with rehabilitation. “FAKTR involves utilizing both IASTM and other muscle techniques to treat the patient in position and movement of provocation to recreate the mechanism that is causing their discomfort,” says Rosner. “Using FAKTR principles, we can place the patient through movements and resistance exercises while treating using myofascial release and IASTM. These techniques help to decrease the restrictions in the fascia as well as allow the tissue to increase normal cellular healing rather than laying down scar tissue.”
Lily Friedman, DC, shares that plantar fasciitis is the most common foot problem seen at Fort Lauderdale –based Comprehensive Wellness Institute’s office as well, adding that therapeutic ultrasound often helps to break up the adhesive issue that is causing the pain, following it up with manual therapy and adjustment “if necessary.” However, ankle subluxation and ankle sprains are also “close in the running,” says Friedman.
According to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, ankle sprains are an “extremely common injury” that, once they occur, can increase a person’s risk of even more ankle problems in the future. IASTM can help effectively treat ankle sprains too, with Physiopedia indicating that these instruments work on a cellular level for injuries such as this by helping reduce scar tissue and increasing vascular response.
Best instruments for foot-related issues
As far as which instruments work well when treating foot-related issues, Board Certified Chiropractor,Shawn Borges, DC, shares that, though he uses “a variety of instruments and specific techniques to aid in chiropractic adjustments” in his Monterey, California practice. However, the two he utilizes most are the instrument adjusting and Gua Sha tools.
“These instruments are particularly helpful when treating conditions such as plantar fasciitis and metatarsalgia,” Borges says. “Instrument adjusting delivers a gentle, specific and measured impulse to localized areas such as the foot and ankle that are often too sensitive to adjust by other techniques,” says Borges, while “Gua Sha tools are designed specifically to scrape the skin, minimizing underlying adhesions.”
“These fabricated smooth edged tools are small enough to hold comfortably in one’s hand,” says Borges, adding that it’s important to not let the size of these tools fool you. “These pint-sized tools pack a lot of healing power,” he says.