By Dr. Ryan Burkhart
Preventing falls is important to reduce the risk of injury and disability, especially as we age. As we have previously discussed, improved balance is easy and effective way to prevent falls. Another well researched tool to prevent falls is to increase muscle strengthen of the toes. There is evidence toe strength, particularly the big toe, plays the most critical role in improved balance, even more than calf and thigh strength. While working on toe strength is not difficult, it is not something many people tend to do intentionally, on a regular basis. The older you are, the more important it is to purposely strengthen the toe, as it is not uncommon to lose up to 35% of muscle mass in the toes as we age.
How to Exercise the Toe:
Fortunately, is much easier and safer to exercise/stretch the toes at home than many other exercises. An exercise called the Vele forward lean is a simple but effective way to accomplish this. It is performed by standing with your feet shoulder width apart and hips and shoulders even. Next, slowly lean forward with your ankles as the hinge while pressing down with your toes/foot into the floor. It is a good idea to do this close to a wall or soft surface to allow for bracing to prevent you from falling forwards in the process of doing the stretch. Other toe exercises can be performed from a seated position by pressing your toes into the floor followed by flaring them upwards.
What To Do if an Injury Occurs:
While preventing injury will always be the best medicine, what should you do if an injury does occur? Regaining strength, mobility, and flexibility is much more difficult after an injury. That is why chiropractic care is not only so important to prevention, but also to rehabilitation. Our care is designed to restore functional movement and reduce pain from several different conditions such as degeneration, sprains/ strains, and injuries to the joints.
Michaud, T. A novel way to prevent elderly falls: Toe strength. Dynamic Chiropractic, July 2018;36(7): 14-21.
Mickle, K, et al. ISB Clinical Biomechanics Award 2009: Toe weakness and deformity increase the risk of falls in older people. Clin Biomech, 2009;24:787-791.
Mickle K, Caputi P, Potter J, Steele J. Efficacy of a progressive resistance exercise program to increase toe flexor strength in older people. Clin Biomech, December 2016;40:14-19
Photo Credit: https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-do-you-need-your-toes.