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Planning Retirement Online

Home Exercise and Rehab


March 2012  


Gina JohnThis month we are introducing a new columnist who has joined us on Laterlife. Gina John is a Pilates Practitioner and Registered Osteopath who has spent many years offering help and advice, especially to the over 50 age group.

She is founder of The Osprey Clinic in the St. Johns Wood area of London and now specialises in Home Exercise and Rehabilitation Programmes. For further advice on exercising safely, and a selection of exercise films for general fitness and medical conditions, visit the website:


This month Gina answers questions on......BUNIONS

Q. My bunions are really painful and stop me from walking as much as I used to. Is it true that orthotics can help with my bunions? And what about exercise, can that help too?

A. A bunion is caused over time from the compensations made by the foot to bring the big toe to the floor and propel the body forwards while walking. Arthritis may develop within the joint and lead to severe, debilitating pain and joint fusion.

There may be several contributory factors in developing bunions and once they have formed, many consultants and therapists take the view that only surgery can deal with the problem. However, an improvement in how the foot functions and resolving or managing the pain, stiffness and mobility, can be achieved by wearing orthotics.

There are several types of orthotics which can be considered. Fully moulded orthotics cost several hundred pounds, whereas prescription or custom-made orthotics start from around £50. These types of orthotics are fitted by podiatrists and also by some osteopaths and physiotherapists. The therapist will evaluate your symptoms, take measurements of your feet and weight bearing and take account of your lifestyle and the demands on your feet. You will then be advised on which type of orthotics will be most appropriate. It is inadvisable to buy orthotics from high street chemists if you have bunions, as these are not designed specifically to deal with this problem and are unlikely to provide adequate support.

Some fully moulded orthotics are made from inflexible, high resistance materials, which may prove to be uncomfortable for patients with bunions. Patients tend to prefer custom-made shock absorbent, low resistance orthotics which can be fitted and adjusted over time.

Exercises for the feet are very useful in resolving stiffness and helping patients to feel more stable while walking. However, arthritis in the joint can cause pain while exercising. It is important not to exercise if you experience pain as you are likely to increase the inflammation in the joint. Seek evaluation and treatment from a Podiatrist, Osteopath or Physiotherapist to reduce inflammation and swelling in the joint. Ultrasound and cold therapy can be effective in addition to anti-inflammatory gels. If you are only experiencing stiffness, then I would advise you to exercise your feet by placing the end of a scarf under one foot at a time and trying to scrunch up your toes, to gather up the scarf. And, then point your feet and circle your ankles, 10 x clockwise and 10 x anticlockwise.

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