Starting this week, we’re going to learn a little bit about the muscles in each part of the body — what they do, when they feel stressed, and when you want to call in the massage professionals!
We’ll start with the feet and low legs. Think about how much time you spend on your feet. Your feet carry your load, day in and day out. Every time you flex or extend your foot, the muscles in your foot and low leg are working. When you’re driving, your muscles work to move your foot between the gas and brake pedal. When you’re walking, running or standing, those muscles stabilize you and provide part of the impetus you need to be able to move. We underestimate how tired our feet can feel, but we really shouldn’t. They work hard all day long.
Also, our feet, obviously, are connected to our low legs. The major movers in our feet actually start in our calves. This is why calf massage can be so beneficial for tired or strained-feeling feet.
Let’s start with some of the muscles that move your toes. The flexors, on the bottom of your foot, curl your toes downward; and the extensors, on the top of your foot, point your toes upward. Your big toe gets its own muscles, which is why it feels stronger. You probably know what it feels like when these muscles get stressed, because this is when your feet feel tired. Massage helps relax these muscles, which can simultaneously relax and invigorate you.
The biggest muscle in the front of your calf is called tibialis anterior, and it runs just on the outside of your tibia (your “shin bone”). It raises your foot, which, if you drive a lot, is something you do all the time with your right foot. It’s also something you do every time you take a step. Tiny tears in this muscle are what we know as “shin splints.” The good news is, once those tears aren’t hurting acutely, you can seek massage to relax this muscle and promote healing.
The main movers on the back of your leg are gastrocnemius (the bulging muscle closest to the surface of your calf) and, just deep to it, soleus. These hard-working muscles point your toes toward the floor, another action you perform all the time. Because both these muscles end at your Achilles tendon, which attaches at your main heel bone (the calcaneus), massaging and relaxing them can help alleviate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. (See https://www.flowholisticwellness.com/single-post/2018/08/20/Plantar-fasciitis-Treat-your-feet for more on plantar fasciitis.)
Next week, we’ll talk about your thighs and gluteal muscles!
Be well, healthy and whole,