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Hello Healers!
Welcome to the second installment Skill Building for Thai Bodyworkers Series, featuring four common foot conditions. In this blog we will discuss:

  • Anatomy of the lower leg and foot
  • Common conditions you may encounter with clients
  • Thai massage foot techniques

As you go through this blog series, I encourage you to palpate the muscles and bones on your own body.

Quick Foot Facts

Each foot has:

  • 26 bones in each foot, 56 in total
  • The bones in the foot make up about ¼ the amount of bones in the human body
  • 33 joints and 107 ligaments
  • The foot has the highest amount of nerve endings per square centimeter than any other part of the body.

Depending on the individual, there are 19 or 20 muscles that control the foot. Some of these muscles originate on the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) and insert onto the foot via tendinous attachment sites. These muscles have several functions, which include:

  • Enabling the foot and ankle to move on various planes
  • Supporting the arch
  • Providing stability to support the rest of the body

Problems in the feet and ankles can contribute to pain the low back, hips, knees, and affect spinal alignment.

Common Foot Conditions

Pes Planus (Fallen Longitudinal Arch)
Flattening of the longitudinal arch of the foot. This occurs when the bone structure of the foot no longer supports the longitudinal arch. It affects gait and soft tissues of leg and foot.

Pes Cavus (High Longitudinal Arch)
 This is the opposite of pes planus.  It is an increased or exaggerated longitudinal arch of the foot. Tightness in the plantar fascia and the soft tissues on the plantar (bottom) surface of the foot draw the ends of the foot closer together.

This can occur over time when there is an increase of external friction on the distal metatarsal; causing a callus to form. The bursa (fluid filled sac) located at this metatarsal head becomes inflamed. In severe cases, a bone spur will form as well.

Plantar Fasciitis Inflammation of the plantar fascia- the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot. Inflammation occurs through chronic overuse. Increased stress due to high or fallen arches also causes inflammation of the plantar fascia. Pain is likely to be worse when weight is suddenly put on the foot after periods of rest. Pain may be particularly intense at the heel bone and the balls of the feet.

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Thai Massage Theory & Techniques

Traditional Thai Bodyworkers often start supine at the feet, and then work their way up to the head. The sen line associated with the feet is sen kalathari. This invisible energy pathway goes from the tip of each toe, to the heel, up the legs, crosses in the abdomen, up through the arm pit, down the arms, and into each finger. Working this sen line relaxes not only the foot, but the body as a whole. The picture below is an example of how sen kalathari is often depicted in Thai massage texts.

Supine Techniques

Thumb press along sen kalathari. Start at the heel, then work up each toe.

Apply circular friction in between the bones of each foot.

Dorsiflex the foot by pointing the toes towards the head.

Plantarflex the foot by pointing the toes towards the ground.

Prone Techniques

Gently step on the bottoms of the client’s foot.

Thumb press along sen kalathari. Start at the heel, then work up each toe.

While trapping the toes under your hand, forearm roll the plantar surface of the client’s foot.

Circle and gently traction each toe.

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