Mobility is one thing we all take for granted until we lose it.
When we can’t walk or stand because of feet or knee problems, we soon realise how much we take our limbs for granted in our day to day activities.
Despite the fact that arthritis or injury like torn ligaments or tendons are common complaints that cause the loss of mobility, often it is simply a collection of muscular problems causing pain in these areas.
Remedial massage can usually play a major role in either healing or significantly alleviating these problems.
For successful treatment, however, it is important… as in most cases of remedial massage… to consider the overall picture and look at all the muscles affecting the movement of the hips, thighs, knees, legs, ankles and feet, because they are all closely interconnected.
Remember the little ditty that goes something like “The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone’s connected to the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone….” was spot on.
Major leg muscles like Hamstrings, Quadriceps and “Calves” are fairly well known, but there are plenty of others with names names not so common, and their actions also play an important role in movement and stability of the legs and feet, and therefore, the entire body.
It is the feet, ankle and knee joints which support the entire weight of the body. Problems with these areas will cause “flow on” effects throughout body as a whole.
Starting from the top of the hips, here’s some movement muscles which, in most cases, should be massaged to effectively treat leg, knee or feet problems:
From the side of the spine from about mid-back, it passes across the front of the hips to the top of the femur (thigh bone). When the hip flexor muscle on one side of the body pulls tighter than the other, it tilts the hip laterally (upwards) on that side, causing imbalances in most leg muscles. (If there is problems in the lower back, this should always be treated.)
One leg will hang slightly in adduction, the other in abduction, though this may not be evident to the untrained eye.
Mainly the Gluteus Maximus, Medius and Minimus and Piriformis muscles, and play a key role in medially and laterally rotating the thigh (turning the leg inwards and outwards) and extending the hip. Problems with these will turn the knee and feet away from their proper alignment, also creating imbalances in leg muscles and exerting unequal forces on the knee joint and feet, in particular the arches.
These muscles get their “two joint” name because they go both across the hip joint and the knee joint.
It is important to remember most of the muscles that go right to the tips of the toes extend up to just below the knees. So when trying to massage out a foot or ankle problem, it is important to follow the muscles right up to the knees.
Last, but certainly not least, are the feet arches:
Flat feet will cause the legs to medially rotate (turn inwards) at the knees. High-arched feet will cause the legs to laterally (turn outwards) – again causing imbalances in the knees.
If you are being treated for leg, knee, ankle or feet aches and pains which you consider to be related to muscle imbalances (rather than to specific injury) and your practitioner does not include all the above factors, ask why.
Injuries like muscle tears and strains, post-operative recovery procedures, arthritis and gout however, will require more specific or specialised treatments.
Some people put up with leg or other problems for years assuming nothing can really be done when they may simply be related to a combination of tight muscles and easily treated by looking at the “big picture.”
With any massage however, it’s advisable to wear comfortable underwear that’s not too tight.