Want improved health as you age? Try looking at your feet

I have to take a break from all the politics and social commentary to acknowledge that I was wrong and a certain man was right. I’m doing this publicly to amuse the various and sundry men out there, wishing they could’ve heard me say, “You were right, and I was completely wrong.”

It hasn’t happened much in this lifetime, so I have to give Dr. Casey Cottle his props.

Backstory:  I’ve been dealing with a health problem, and things were looking pretty bleak when my primary care physician hired Cottle, a brilliant, young physical therapist. Since the worst of the problems involved continued mobility and I’m a physically active person, I was more than willing to sign on.

After doing all the intake and assessment stuff, Cottle immediately started talking to me about exercising my feet. Suddenly I was wondering if I should have been so willing. I’d had a bad experience with physical therapy years ago with a therapist that didn’t seem to know much about the human body.

I worried about duplicating that experience. I mean, there I was discussing some seriously scary symptoms/episodes, and this kid wanted to talk to me about my feet?! In Cottle’s defense, we did and do work on other things in my therapy, but improving foot posture to improve overall health is his big thing.

Honestly, I thought Cottle was crazy and pretty much told him so. I was an athlete in my youth and have trained just about every inch of my body at one time or another in a variety of ways. So help me goodness, the idea of exercising my feet seemed right batty.

Fast forward months of therapy later, and I’m experiencing steadily decreasing severity in symptoms that were expected to be somewhat of a permanent thing. Not only am I hopeful for longevity where mobility is concerned, I’m moving better than I have in years.

And, I’m using improved foot posture. Cottle was so right. Darn it.

Cottle taught me that my collapsed arches didn’t have to be that way, and again, he was right. I’m able to stand with arches in my feet again, which forces me to straighten out my bent knees, which straightens out my hips.

Like a domino effect, the straightening continues all the way up to the sources of my worst symptoms, improving my overall health on the way.

The older I get, the less I find myself blown away by something I totally did not know. Cottle and his foot theories have taken me there. I’ve become like a born-again foot person preaching to everyone about their feet.

I’ve even been telling my middle-aged female peers that foot posture seems to have something to do with cellulite, too, since mine has been disappearing as my foot muscles get stronger. Tongue in cheek, I told Cottle he should do a targeted ad campaign about it.

Cottle wisely observed that middle-aged women don’t tend to take kindly to cellulite discussions, and while well-intended, that particular ad might not be so well received. We had a good laugh, though, which is the other thing that’s great about Cottle — he tends to the whole person.

Cottle uses laughter and other tools to develop strong relationships with his clients as a means to develop the trust necessary to turn a person’s health around. Trust isn’t my strong suit, so this aspect of his job was no small feat with this patient.

I know it’s kind of weird to talk about my personal health in this blog, but at the same time, Cottle’s a big part of why I am still writing, so I wanted to thank him for his work. I told him during our last session that I was thinking about writing a post about my feet and physical therapy, and I asked if he minded being mentioned by name.

Cottle gave me permission. It was a pretty gutsy move considering he’s read samples from my blog  and has heard me talk about my ups and downs with it. I asked him if there’s one thing he’d want to say to my readers about their health, what would it be?

He paused and said, “Move well, move often, and if you don’t know how to move well, find someone that can teach you.”

To which I’d add my secondary reason for writing this post:  Thank you, Casey, for teaching me that moving well is all about my feet. Thanks to you, I’m moving better every day; and more importantly, I’m more and more hopeful about my health outcomes.

Endnote to our elected officials, especially Congress:  Want to cut healthcare costs and improve healthcare outcomes? Assign a Dr. Cottle to every primary care practice out there. And since you’re too busy crafting tax cuts for the rich to focus on quality healthcare for all, how about a government-funded ad campaign advising your constituents to take care of their feet. It’s the least you could do … literally.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.