When a patient walks into my acupuncture clinic, I can frequently tell the state of their health just by looking at their face. Everything from the sparkle in their eyes to the color of their face tell me a little bit about how things are going for that patient. Similarly, it is almost as easy to determine the state of a patient’s health by looking at the health of their feet. That’s because your feet tend to be a barometer of your overall wellness, as health problems tend to show up first in your feet.
Here are nine things that your feet are telling me about your health:
Cold feet can be a sign of poor circulation or slow metabolism. In Chinese medicine Yang energy acts a bit like your body’s pilot light, warming and circulating warmth throughout your system. Your cold dogs tell me that the pilot light is low and things aren’t circulating.
Thick, yellow toenails occur as a result of a fungal infection in and under the nails. In Chinese medicine it also tells me that you probably tend to run a little damp (you retain water or metabolize it poorly) and might also have less than stellar immunity.
Dry, cracked skin on your feet (not just dry heels) is a sign that your body is dried out overall. A little moisturizer on your skin is helpful, but even better is adding more fatty, but nourishing foods to your diet. Think about bumping up your consumption of nuts, avocados, and healthy oils.
Poor healing in your feet are a common sign of diabetes, but is also a sign of poor circulation in general. Please pay attention to any sores that are slow to heal by having a medical professional take a look.
An enlarged big toe that is sore and swollen is often a sign of gout, which occurs due to excess uric acid settling in the joint. Interestingly, gout tends to occur in the joints of your body that are the coldest, like your feet, however, a gouty joint will become inflamed, red and swollen. In terms of Chinese medicine, that would be dampness plus heat.
Heel pain in Western medicine is often diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the tendon and fascia that runs through the arch of your foot and back to your heel. In Chinese medicine, it’s considered to be a kind of stagnation and slow healing due to poor circulation.
A neuroma is a pinched nerve or a nerve bundle in your foot that can be annoyingly painful. Frequently, the nerve gets caught in the space between your metatarsals (the bones in your forefoot that connect to your toes). In Chinese medicine, a neuroma is also considered to be a stagnation, in which energy, blood, and nerves are constricted.
A bunion is a painful, enlarged and misaligned joint at the base of your big toe, and is also considered to be a kind of stagnation in Chinese medicine. When a bunion gets red and swollen, it’s also considered to be a pattern of dampness and heat. However, when a bunion acts up during the cold weather, it’s considered to be a pattern of cold (and usually dampness, too). The majority of bunion sufferers are women, and the cause can be genetic, over pronation of the foot, and tight, pointy shoes.
This list would not be complete without talking about smelly feet. In almost every case of funky stanky dogs that I have seen, the owner of said feet had some dampness. Again, dampness occurs when your body doesn’t metabolize fluids very well, and smelly feet come from bacteria that thrive in warm damp conditions, like your feet inside your shoes.
While many of the above conditions are slow to heal, the good news is that for many of the conditions plaguing your feet, acupuncture and Chinese medicine may be the answer. Whether your feet are dry, damp, smelly, or achy, a few sessions on the acupuncture table may be all it takes to put things right.