The Quarantine 15 (or -5): How Changes in Activity Can Affect Your Heel Pain
There is no question that life during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly all our daily routines.
Aside from washing our hands so frequently that we’re making even raccoons self-conscious (and yes, please continue doing that!), the changes to our lives can swing in various ways:
You might find yourself cooped up at home, taking care of kids/tasks/Netflix queues, or getting outside every chance you can get.
You might still find many of your hours still taken up with work, or your days (stressfully) open.
You have dogs that are loving the idea of constant walks, or… you don’t.
Changes, whether we want them or not, can influence our lives more than we might initially expect. One potential consequence is the onset of or increase in foot and heel pain—and this can happen even when the changes are an overall positive for your well-being!
We mentioned the “quarantine 15” in the title of this blog—an allusion to the “freshman 15” weight gain many college students see when their routines change. But present changes could also lead to a “quarantine -5” for some, where people become more active than they used to. Both situations can be a cause of pain, and here’s why.
The Quarantine 15: Potential Pain from a Decrease in Activity
So you used to spend a lot of time on your feet, but circumstances have led to a more sedentary existence—even if responsibilities have you feeling more busy than ever!
It is easy for our body’s balance between calories consumed and calories spent to shift during these times, resulting in some extra weight. And, thanks to gravity, this excess weight translates to extra force upon our feet.
With each step you take, your feet are distributing the weight you place upon them. A minor shift in weight might not amount to much in the near term, but the more excess weight you carry over a longer period of time, the higher the chances that you will overwhelm the biomechanics of your feet. Each step you do take adds up!
And while this can be a problem even if the structures of your feet are relatively normal, it can be even worse when this is not the case.
When you have an abnormality in your foot structure, such as flat feet or high arches, distribution can be thrown off and excess force concentrated in specific spots. As you might suspect, these areas can become particularly vulnerable to injury.
Additionally, a decrease in activity levels can weaken previously conditioned tissues. Just like any other parts that you work out, muscles and other connective tissues in your feet and ankles stay stronger and more durable through regular use. With disuse, they become more susceptible to strains and other problems.
A decrease in movement can really work against the comfort of your feet and ankles, but so can too sharp of an increase.
The Quarantine -5: Potential Pain from an Increase in Activity
If there is some silver lining in this worrisome situation, it’s that many people have been moving more than they ever have in a long time. People looking for any reason to get out of the house are finding productive means to do so on walks and bike rides, and that is great as long as social distancing measures are being kept in place!
Getting more movement into our lives is, in general, great for our feet, ankles, and well-being. However, it is possible to overwhelm the biomechanics of your foot and ankle when they aren’t properly conditioned to take on this new work yet—even if you have lost some weight in the process!
Let’s go back to the math on this:
We previously mentioned how extra force applied to each step we take adds up. Well, the same principles apply when we increase the number of steps taken in a day.
With each step, about twice your body weight worth of force is applied to your feet. Take a 150-pound person and add 5,000 extra steps to their day, and that results in 150 X 5,000 X 2, equaling 1.5 million cumulative pounds, or 750 tons, of extra force dealt with per day. Losing some weight can help offload some of that force, but the number of steps can still cause quite a jump compared to what you were doing before.
Again, we are not trying to discourage anyone from moving more! But our bodies need some time to gradually adjust to greater workloads. Too much all at once can increase risks of injuries such as stress fractures and plantar fasciitis if we don’t give our feet time to recover.
We see this sort of thing with track students starting up for the season, so it’s certainly not a matter of “weakness.” It can happen to anyone making too big of a jump over too short a timeframe.
What Can You Do About Your Foot and Heel Pain?
Even though present conditions aren’t favorable at this time for an in-person visit (unless it’s an emergency, of course), we are still here and ready to help you wherever you are—all thanks to the magic of telemedicine.
We have been seeing patients through Zoom for problems such as these, and been able to offer plenty of helpful advice to reduce pain and better condition your feet toward these changes. We might recommend:
Changes to footwear
Stretches and exercises to strengthen the feet and ankles
Changes to your activity routines
Of course, additional measures might be needed based on your condition. We can easily discuss these matters with you via Zoom (it’s super easy, trust us) and, if more direct treatment is needed, we can discuss what the best and safest steps forward would be at that time.
Stay strong, stay vigilant, and stay moving (but don’t overdo it). If you need to reach us, please call our Indianapolis office at (317) 545-0505 as always. We can schedule a virtual appointment through Zoom over the phone if we need to. You are also always welcome to reach out to us via our online contact form as well.