Dr. House, you're wanted in podiatry.
October 18, 2012 6:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a foot flexibility problem that I can't figure out. YANMD, unless you are, hey doc! It's the end of a long string of problems that I got over, but this last thing is hanging on, and i'm not sure how it is related to past problems (achilles tendonitis and some arch issues in that foot).

It goes like this: when doing a heel stretch, I feel a tightness on the top of my foot, right in the middle of the "L" angle, that doesn't allow me to stretch my calve. Its not exactly pain that I feel, but I often during the find that I can't go past a certain point, and my stability is shaky. The other leg works just as it should, and I can complete the stretch. Bent knee heel stretch is even worse. I can make small improvements during a stretching session, but can't seem to restore to normal functioning.

It's important because I play drums, and need to get a good calve stretch in to keep my achilles and arch happy. This feels like a problem I can solve, but I'll go back to a podiatrist if I need to. Thanks!
posted by shimmer to Health & Fitness (1 answer total)
Best answer: Can't say for sure but if there's pain on the top of your foot it could be an extensor ligament problem. Try massaging the muscle that runs along the front outer side of your tibia - find the ridge of bone on your shin, move your hands over slightly towards your little toe, rub the muscle right there. Does it hurt like almighty hell? If so, that's your problem.

There are two possibilities here: (a) heel stretch takes the strain off of the extensor ligaments, and (counterintuitively) this can make it hurt (kind of like how muscles can cramp up when you relax them after being overworked); or (b) your extensor is actually the one that needs to be stretched, not your calf.

Possibility (a): you probably have a calf muscle that is too tight, and that makes the extensor overworked as a result. You NEED to stretch that calf to take the strain off of your extensor. Which means you NEED to move past the pain of the extensor relaxing to get that stretch done. Slowly, with some kind of muscle relaxer (heat, Icy Hot, prescription if it comes down to it).

Possibility (b): There's nothing wrong with your calf, but the extensor group is really overworked and that is causing pain. The calf (if it hurts) is sore because it's countering the tibialis muscle, not because the calf itself needs to be stretched. This kind of makes sense, if you think about it - as a drummer you probably spend a lot of time with your foot cocked up above the pedal of the kickdrum, so that muscle (part of the group that lifts and extends your toes) is spending a lot of time contracted. Gently stretch the hell out of your tibialis group, by pointing your toes, to counteract the constant contraction.

If you can't figure out if (a) or (b) is the problem, you could always schedule an appointment with a massage therapist, having him/her focus on your legs and feet to see if he/she can help you resolve this. I had a similar problem with my back: persistent pain behind my shoulder blade, felt like I'd been stabbed. The reaction was to try and stretch the spot that hurt. I finally went to a massage therapist who told me what was REALLY happening. The reality was that my pectorals were too tight, and the poor muscle in my back was overworked trying to balance out the pecs. Stretching the front of my chest more (as the masseuse suggested) made the problem go away. Now when I have pain somewhere, I think to myself "What balances out this muscle?" and try to stretch THAT first. More often than not, it works.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:27 AM on October 19, 2012

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