From a Lifetime of Toe Walking to a New Normal Gait!
Toe walking is a distinct pattern of walking in which only the balls and toes of the feet connect with the ground, but the heels do not. For some, this is a lifelong affliction, for others, they’ve gotten treatment of some kind, with varying levels of success.
Last year in 2022, 16 year old Addison Tjaden traveled with her mother from Central Illinois for a consult with ARC Physical Therapy in Elmhurst for her toe walking. She’d been afflicted with the ailment since she was a baby and by the time she made the trek for a second opinion with us, her doctors were talking about extreme measures in regard to long term treatment.
“The doctor, after physical therapy down there didn’t help, suggested her only option was to cut the heel cords, the Achilles tendons… just sever them. That means your calf muscles will never work again,” ARC Physical Therapy’s owner, Kevin Cronin, said. That may ‘fix’ one problem, the toe walking, but would create other lifetime ailments. Everyone involved in Addison’s care wanted to look at other options to avoid that last-resort scenario.
How Toe Walking Starts
Addison likely inherited it from her family; her mother and grandmother had some degree of toe walking but she had it the worse within her family. Her legs and calf muscles were extremely tight and wouldn’t extend the way a normally functional limb would work. This also affected her ankles in that she couldn’t bend them to their normal full range of motion.
When she was a child, she adapted and her family doctors felt that this is just how it’ll be for Addison and if it wasn’t causing pain, there wasn’t a need for aggressive treatment or surgery. That changed once she hit puberty and she started to get stress fractures in the bones in her feet. The balls of the feet aren’t made to be walked on for a lifetime, and time was catching up with Addison. Her family doctor sent her to a local orthopedic doctor and then to a physical therapist in Bloomington who didn’t have much luck alleviating Addison’s discomfort or getting her legs and ankles to a place where less pressure was put on the balls of her feet. The physical therapist that treated her had taken Counterstrain classes with Cronin but didn’t have all the experience needed to treat such a complicated toe walking case, so he referred Addison to us.
Patient’s Initial Evaluation
When she arrived at ARC Physical Therapy’s Elmhurst location, we assessed her visually as well as with a fascial Counterstrain cranial scan. This is literally a hands-on scan of the bones in the head by the physical therapist. These scans were showing us a lot of things, such as reflex spasm in the deep arteries and veins in the spinal cord as well as the fascia covering the adipose tissue in the lower body, including the adipose tissue that surrounds the internal organs of the lower abdomen and pelvis. It was clear she was a good candidate for Counterstrain.
“That fascia affects the nerves in the in lower legs. And so I treated the adipose tissue, the veins, and arteries that were found to be dysfunctional as they affect the muscle tone in the leg. After treatment, I said, ‘well, why don’t you just stand up and let’s see how you’re doing and how it feels,’” said Cronin.
At this point, Addison stands up and Kevin is behind her, guiding her and her mother is in awe, asking how she’s doing that! Kevin looks down and sees that she’s standing flat. At that point, Kevin instructs her to slowly start walking, and at first it was shaky and her gait was in a toe to heel pattern, since she’d never experienced walking normally before.
“Then when she turned around, I asked her to try to walk heel toe, heel toe. And again, it looked really awkward, but by the time she got to the far end of the room, she was walking pretty decently heel to toe. By this point, she’s smiling and her mom’s crying and I’m like, ‘you’re doing so great, that’s a very good start!’ We were all just beaming at she took her first normal steps at 16 years old,” Cronin said.
Since then, Kevin and his team have seen her a few more times and she continues to improve. Now, he’s working on more specific issues related to her hips and lower back. Ailments that affect the feet and ankles have a chain reaction that impact the rest of the body, so once the toe walking was addressed, it was time to fix the issues that remained further up her body.
Her Mother’s Feedback
Her mother, Kristi Tjaden, was so happy with her daughter’s treatment, she left this review, for which we’re so grateful! “We were referred to Kevin by my daughter’s physical therapist in Bloomington, IL. My daughter had never physically been able to walk flat footed. At a young age she had braces and did serial casting. We were told the only other option would be to cut her heel chords, which we didn’t want to do if we didn’t have to. She had her first appointment with Kevin in June of 2022 at the age of 16. After her first 45-minute visit, she walked out flat footed! I cried the first time I saw her stand flat footed with no pain! This will help her tremendously, as she was developing foot issues like cysts from the tippy-toe walking. We can’t thank Kevin enough. It is a two-hour drive that we happily would make again!”
Counterstrain & Patient Success
While this case highlights the success of one person’s experience with Counterstrain, the underlying cause of almost all inflammation, muscle spasm/tightness, and pain is fascia. So this kind of treatment can be used on many different kinds of ailments, not just ones that are typically found in patients that need physical therapy. It can be used with people who have chronic pain, as well as numerous other conditions. Ailments caused by inflammation also respond well to Counterstrain because the treatment helps promote blood flow, and good blood flow is essential to healing. This treatment gets to the root cause of a lot of different kinds of symptoms that present at the doctor’s office. So instead of treating the symptoms, we’re treating what causes those symptoms.
Connect with our Team
Kevin Cronin and his staff are all trained experts in Counterstrain and they have many years of experience working with Counterstrain. Make an appointment to see one of these pain management experts at either the downtown Chicago Loop location or the Elmhurst location.