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Monday, 02 November 2015 22:43

Biomechanics in Podiatry

Biomechanics and its related study deal with forces that act against the body and effect things like our movement. In podiatry, biomechanics are studied to determine the movement of the ankle, toes, and the foot itself, as well as the forces that impact them. Podiatrists who train in this specialty are able to effectively diagnose and treat conditions that affect people’s everyday movement.

Regardless of your lifestyle, age, or any other factors, many people experience foot problems throughout their lives. Twists and turns, improper balance, and added weight are just a few of the things that can add stress to the feet and limit the mobility everyone takes for granted. Pain in the feet and ankles can also trickle up towards the lower legs, knees, hip, and even back area, all effecting the way you move around on a daily basis.

The history of studying biomechanics dates back to ancient Egypt at around 3000 B.C., where evidence of professional foot care has been recorded. Throughout the centuries, advances in technology, science, and an understanding of the human body led to more accurate diagnosis of conditions such as corns for example. In 1974, biomechanics garnered a large audience when Merton Root claimed that changing or controlling the forces between the ankle and the foot, corrections of certain conditions could be implemented to gain strength and coordination in the area. Due to his research, we still use his basic principle of thermoplastic foot orthotics to this day.

As technology has improved, so have the therapeutic processes that allow us to correct deficiencies in our natural biomechanics. Computers can now provide accurate readings of the forces, movements, and patterns of the foot and lower leg. Critical treatment options can be provided to patients now who suffer from problems that cause their biomechanics to not function naturally. The best results are now possible thanks to 3D modeling and computing technologies that can not only take readings, but also map out what treatment will do to the affected areas.

A new treatment option which combines ultrasound waves and steroid injections was found to be effective in patients suffering from plantar fasciitis, according to a groundbreaking study from the University of Genoa in Italy.

The plantar fascia is a connective tissue in the heel that stretches the bottom length of your foot. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of this connective band, causing heel pain and overall discomfort while walking or standing. Although the condition is completely treatable, traditional methods can take up to a year to start being effective.

These conventional treatments include arch support, night splints, certain exercises, and overall rest and staying off your feet.  The previous effective method for curing plantar fasciitis was shockwave therapy, in which sound waves are directed to the area where the pain is being experienced, often the heel. Despite the success of shockwave therapy, it could be considered somewhat slow, requires several sessions before any results are noticed, and is comparably expensive. However, even shockwave therapy does not cure the pain caused by plantar fasciitis in every patient.

The study, conducted by Luca M. Sconfienza, M.D., examined the effects of a new technique that combined ultrasound-guided methods, similar to shockwave therapy, with a steroid injection directly the plantar fascia. Because of the added steroid injection, the method becomes a one-time outpatient procedure involving a small amount of local anesthesia, in which a needle punctures the affected area and causes a small amount of bleeding that aids in the heeling of the fascia. This technique is referred to as dry-needling.

Dr. Sconfienza determined that 42 of the 44 patients involved in the new procedure had their symptoms, including pain, disappear entirely within three weeks. “This therapy is quicker, easier, less painful, and less expensive than shockwave therapy,” Dr. Sconfienza stated. “In cases of mild plantar fasciitis, patients should first try non-invasive solutions before any other treatments. But when pain becomes annoying and affects the activities of daily living, dry-needling with steroid injection is a viable option.”

Monday, 19 October 2015 22:37

Flat Feet

Affecting about 20-30% of the population, flat feet is a condition in which the foot’s arch either drops or never develops. Flat feet is relatively common in babies and small children as a result of the arch not developing. Adults can develop flat feet as a result of injury or pregnancy due to increased elasticity. However, in adults flat feet is usually a permanent condition.

Flat feet can make walking difficult since it places undue stress on the ankles. This stress throws off the general alignment of the legs since flat feet cause the ankles to move inward, causing discomfort. Flat feet can also affect the knees since arthritis is a common condition in that area. Fortunately, in many cases flat feet do not directly cause any pain.

When it comes to runners, there are specific shoes that can help realign the ankles and provide more support while lessening the amount of pronation involved. Running often causes weight shifting very quickly, so it’s important to be informed whether or not you are affected by flat feet. Knowledge about flat feet is crucial, especially when it comes to preventing injuries.

To be able to diagnose flat feet, a test commonly used is known as the wet footprint test. In the wet footprint test, the individual places a flat foot on a surface to generate a footprint. If there is no indication of an arch or any indentations, that person could have flat feet. In any case, if there is a possibility of having flat feet, a podiatrist should be consulted.

Once flat foot has been diagnosed, it can be treated by wearing insoles. There are two types of flat feet. The first type is rigid, where the feet appear to have no arch even if the affected person is not standing. The other condition, known as flexible flat feet, occurs when the arch seems to ‘go away’ when someone is standing but appears while sitting. In the case of flexible flat feet, unless pain is caused by the condition, there is no need for treatment. However, in the case of rigid flat feet or pain involved in flexible flat feet, orthotic insoles and exercises are prescribed to help the arches develop.

Monday, 12 October 2015 22:37

Diabetic Foot Care

Millions of people are affected with diabetes each year. Diabetes damages blood vessels in all parts of the body, especially the feet. The legs and feet may develop slow blood flow, which causes neuropathy (nerve damage). Once a diabetic patient develops neuropathy, it is important that the feet are well taken care of, or else the lower limbs may have to be amputated. This only happens in drastic cases, but it shows how seriously diabetic foot care should be taken.

It is very important to always wash and dry the feet thoroughly, especially in between the toes, when diabetic. Secondly, examining your feet and toes for redness or sores must be done, even if you do not feel pain.  You may also want to examine your feet from the bottom. Try to avoid wearing colored socks to prevent infections that may occur from the die. Additionally, well-fitting socks are highly recommended.

A diabetic’s physician should always monitor their blood levels to test how well the blood sugars are being controlled during the p. In addition to giving advice about everyday eating habits and foot care, a physician may prescribe medicine to help with neuropathy of a diabetic patient. It is also advised to see a podiatrist if experiencing any feet conditions. Toe nails may also need to be taken care of by a podiatrist, since some patients may cut too deep around the cuticles, causing infection.

A person can take care of their feet at home by following the instructions of their physician. Using creams on one’s feet is also an effective way to heal dryness. When using tools to remove calluses, use caution, as severe diabetics may not be able to feel pain on their feet. If any complications arise do not hesitate to call a podiatrist.

On a daily basis, diabetic feet must be checked. If you are ever concerned about something, contact your health care professional. You never want to wait until a wound gets too bad to treat. If left untreated, gangrene may develop. Gangrene is a serious infection that can cause in diabetics that can lead to sepsis or amputation. It is also important for diabetics to be on the lookout for ulcers. Ulcers are sores that develop from tissue loss on the skin. They can be quite painful and require intensive treatment. Early treatment and everyday inspection are imperative to staying healthy.

Monday, 05 October 2015 22:26

Arthritic Foot Care

During your lifetime, you will probably walk about 75,000 miles, which is quite a lot of stress to put on your feet. As you get older, the 26 bones and 30 joints in your body will lose flexibility and elasticity, and your foot’s natural shock absorbers will wear down too. Having arthritis added to this mix only makes matters worse because your joints will become distorted and inflame, which is why arthritic foot care needs to be something you think about every day.

When dealing with arthritis, having additional foot complications, such as bunions, hammertoes, or neuroma, can be a serious detriment. To avoid these, buying well-fitting shoes with a lower heel and good support are a must. Arthritis causes you to lose your arch, so having shoes with good arch support is also highly recommended.

Aside from getting good arch support, the shoes need to fit comfortably and properly as well. A good place to start is by leaving a finger width between the back of the shoe and your foot to gauge proper size. It is also helpful to have a square or rounded toe box in the front to provide even more comfort. Another thing to look for is a rubber sole that can provide a cushion and absorb shock as you walk. This adds flexibility to the ball of your foot when you push off your heel to walk.

Exercise is another key aspect of arthritic foot care, not only strengthening and stretching your muscles and joints, but helping to prevent further injury and pain as well. Stretching the Achilles tendon for example, the tendon located in the back of your heel, will give you added mobility and reduce pain due to stress. Another thing you can do is massage your feet, kneading the ball of your foot as well as your toes from top to bottom.

Stretching the Achilles tendon is a simple exercise that you can do at home anytime. Lean against the wall with your palms flat against the surface while placing one foot forward, towards the wall, and one foot behind you. Bend your forward knee towards the wall while keeping your back knee locked straight, and make sure both your heels are completely touching the ground at all times. This will stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles as well, and you will feel the stretch almost immediately. You can also stretch your toes in a couple ways. One involves taking a rubber band and wrapping it around both your big toes while your heels remain together, then pull them apart to stretch your big toe. You can also place a rubber band around all the toes of one of your feet and then try to separate each individual toe, stretching them all.

A final step you can take to help your arthritis is taking non-steroid, non-inflammatory drugs or topical medicines with capsaicin. Unfortunately there is no complete way to remove all of your arthritic pain, but following some of this advice can go a long way in staying as pain free as possible.

Monday, 28 September 2015 22:26

What to Know About a Broken Toe

Trauma to the foot, especially the toes, can occur in many ways. Banging them, stubbing them, or dropping something on them are a few different ways this trauma can occur. Given the fact that toes are positioned in front of the feet, they typically sustain the brunt of such trauma. When trauma occurs to a toe, the result can be a painful break or fracture. Another type of trauma that can break a toe is repeated activity that places stress on the toe for prolonged periods of time.

Broken toes can be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. Symptoms of minor toe fractures include throbbing pain, swelling, bruising on the skin and toenail, and the inability to move the toe with ease. Severe toe fractures require medical attention and are indicated when the broken toe appears crooked or disfigured, when there is tingling or numbness in the toe, or when there is an open, bleeding wound present on the toe.

Generally, a minor toe break will heal without long-term complications, but it is important to discontinue activities that put pressure on the toe. It is best to stay off of the injured toe and immediately get a splint or cast to prevent any additional movement of the toe bones. You can also immobilize your toe by placing a small cotton ball between the injured toe and the toe beside it, then taping the two toes together with medical tape. Swelling can be alleviated by placing an ice pack on the broken toe directly as well as elevating your feet above your head.

Severe toe fractures may be treated with a splint, cast, and in some cases, minor surgery; especially when the big toe has been broken. Due to its position and the pressure it endures with daily activity, future complications can occur if the big toe is not properly treated. Pain associated with minor toe fractures can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications, and prescription pain killers may be necessary for severe toe fractures.

The healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. In severe cases where the toe becomes infected or requires surgery, healing time can take up to eight weeks or more. While complications associated with a broken toe are immediately apparent, it is important to note that there are rare cases when additional complications, such as osteoarthritis, can develop over time. You should immediately speak with your podiatrist if you think you have broken your toe due to trauma, as they will be able to diagnose the injury and recommend the appropriate treatment options.

Monday, 21 September 2015 22:26

Solutions for Cracked Heels

Cracked heels can make life very frustrating when sandal season comes around, and can be very embarrassing. However, not only are they an aesthetic issue, they can also tear stockings, socks, and even wear out shoes faster. When severe, they may cause pain or infection.

Cracked heels are a problem for those who are athletic, who may walk a lot, and who have dry skin especially. Those who use medication that dry the skin, swim a lot, wear certain types of shoes, and who are diabetic may have trouble with cracked heels. Seniors whose skin produces less oil also may have trouble with cracked feet. There is no one way to develop cracked feet, and there is no cure.

Today, the market consists of numerous products that have a variety of ingredients to promote healing. Some of these are over-the-counter, and some are prescribed by a doctor; especially for those who have chronic dry feet and heels.

Some doctors may recommend wearing socks at night for those with rough skin. This helps further healing, and helps any creams put on the feet to stay on longer and better sink into the skin.

One way to alleviate dryness that causes cracked heels is by using moisturizers both day and night. Another way is to make sure the skin is clean and dry at all times. Using a pumice stone to remove dead skin before putting on moisturizer can also help, as cracked heels will not respond to the cream unless the outer layer of skin is first removed through exfoliation. After exfoliation, lotion or ointment will be absorbed by the skin more easily.

Foods that produce healing and balance can also help the skin from within. Everything that is put into the body can either help it or hurt it, and foods that give the body staying power will permeate through, especially through the first line of protection, the skin. Additionally in helping cracked heels, taking supplements of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc can be very beneficial.

Nevertheless, not all products that say they will help cracked feet will help. Seeing a professional is best if nothing else being tried works. A podiatrist should be able to give the best advice to help with this problem.

Monday, 31 August 2015 22:19

Foot Therapy for Sports Injuries

Whether in practice or in the game, athletes put their bodies through great stress. Some sports tax and demand more from the body than others, but every sport has an element of inorganic movement or unnatural motion. For ample, in softball, a pitcher winds up and flings her body with incredible amounts of dexterity in order to get the most ideal velocity out of her pitches. This motion, incredibly taxing on the body, can cause serious injury.

With regards to athletic injuries, one of the most common issues resides in the feet. Whether a damaging fracture that leaves athletes sidelined or simple turf toe, foot injuries can be very frustrating and painful. Regardless of sport, athletes require use of their feet in some fashion. This is why foot therapy is so vital in order to get athletes back on the right track and training again to return to the field.

No matter the injury, the best way to speed up the recovery period is to receive physical therapy. Physical therapy as a founded practice has proven to work for millions of people. Physical therapists are trained specifically to help people return to proper form from any injury, having gone through years of schooling in order to do so.

During physical therapy, you will go through organized training in order to get back into form. Sometimes training can be quite difficult, especially in the beginning when there is more pain and the foot feels awkward. To alleviate that you will do basic twisting and stretching exercises in order to get flexibility and foot mobility back up. The therapist will also massage the injured area in order to activate and relax muscles. Over time you will eventually move up to strengthening exercises, designed specifically so that activation of the injured area is ensured.

Foot therapy for sports is a modern science miracle. Devoid of fancy chemicals and terminology, physical therapy is an evidence based practice that is well designed as any other. Due to huge advancements and knowledge of muscles and joints, physical therapists can turn catastrophic injuries around so athletes can return to the game once more.

Monday, 17 August 2015 16:45

Ankle Foot Orthotics For Athletes

Ankle and foot orthotics, known as AFOs, are custom-made inserts, shaped and contoured to fit inside a shoe and used to correct an irregular walking gait or provide cushioning. Orthotics come in a variety of different models and sizes, including both over the counter and customizable variants. Customizable ones should be prescribed through a podiatrist who specializes in customized footwear and orthotics design and management.

AFOs are often used by athletes including track and field runners, cyclists, professional dancers, ice skaters, and even golfers. They benefit a lot from custom made AFOs by preventing injuries from occurring and provide cushioning to keep pain levels down to a minimum. Ankle foot orthotics allow for the correct positioning of the feet and also act as shock absorbers to help keep pressure and stress off the foot and ankle. They can also relieve back pain and hip pain while restoring balance and improving an athlete’s performance.

The way they help alleviate pain is by controlling the movement of both your feet and ankles. They are custom designed by a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist to help treat foot problems such as flat feet, spurs, arthritis of the ankle or foot, ankle sprains, weakness, and drop foot, a condition in which the patient cannot raise their foot at the ankle joint.

With custom orthotics, a patient will go through a complete examination of the foot and ankle, followed by the ankle and foot being cast and fitted for the proper orthotic. Depending upon the final result of the tests, a stretching treatment is created with specific shoe fitting in mind. After they have been fitted to the shoes, adjustments can be made in order to get the perfect fit and completely fill out the shoe. Evaluations are then usually set up to monitor the patient in the coming weeks to see how they are adjusting.

AFOs are also available over the counter and are more common than custom fit ones. Athletes that have generally low aches and pains in the foot, ankle, or lower back area can use an over the counter version of these orthotics. Weight is still distributed evenly throughout the bottom of the foot thanks to the arch support they give, but when an injury or ailment occurs, it is usually not enough to try and remedy it with an over the counter version. In either case, a podiatrist will be able to offer the best advice and treatment when it comes to foot and ankle orthotics and handle all your foot care needs.

Saturday, 08 August 2015 16:23

How to Prevent Running Injuries

Many common running injuries are caused by overuse and overtraining. Several common injuries can occur due to running. When the back of the kneecap starts wearing away and starts causing pain in the knee, this is commonly referred to as runner’s knee. Runner’s knee can occur because of decreased strength in the quadricep muscles or shoes that do not offer proper support to the inside of the forefoot. Runner’s knee usually is treated with strengthening exercises focusing on the quad muscle and sports orthotic. To prevent runner’s knee, efforts should be focused on hip strengthening. Physical therapy is also beneficial in helping to learn the best exercises to heal runner’s knee. To prevent runner’s knee, strengthen the quad muscles to keep the kneecap aligned.

Overtraining is one cause of a common running injury called iliotibial band syndrome, which occurs when the iliotibial band gets irritated, causing pain and discomfort to the outside knee area. Another common running injury is known as plantar fasciitis, which occurs when the bone in the foot becomes inflamed and irritated. This injury primarily causes pain in the foot. Causes can include a high arch, incorrect footwear, tight muscles and flat feet. The best way to avoid plantar fasciitis is stretching and proper footwear.

Stress fractures are a common injury for runners. These fractures can occur because of overtraining, lack of calcium or running style. In runners, it is common for stress fractures to occur in several locations including the inner bone of the leg, the thighbone, the bone at the base of the spine and the toe bones in the foot. The best approach to preventing stress fractures are proper footwear maintenance and running on a surface with enough “give” to absorb some of the shock produced during running.

Besides overtraining, other causes of these common running injuries are poorly fitting footwear, irregular biomechanics, and lack of flexibility and strength. The best way to avoid running injuries is to prevent them. Fortunately, each of these common running injuries can be prevented. To avoid running injuries it is highly recommended to wear only footwear that fits properly and that suits your needs. Running shoes are the only protective gear that runners have to safeguard them from injury; therefore, choosing the correct footwear for running is important. It is important, too, to think about other aspects of your running routine like training schedules, flexibility and strengthening, and tailor them to your needs in order to minimize the possibility of injury. Regular stretching before and after running should be considered also when trying to avoid running injuries. Stretching keeps muscles limber resulting in greater flexibility.

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