Foot and Ankle Pain is Treatable
The average American will walk over 80,000 miles in a lifetime, so it is not surprising that over 75 percent of us will experience foot and ankle problems. There are many things that can affect the condition, as well as the appearance of our feet, including activity level, occupation, health history and other health related conditions. Shoes also play a vital role in the overall condition of your feet.
Many people who experience foot and ankle pain do not think that the pain is treatable. However, some problems may be easily eliminated with proper self-care or by purchasing a more supportive pair of shoes. More serious foot and ankle conditions warrant a visit to a foot and ankle specialist.
At CHI Health Orthopedic Care, our podiatrists are specially-trained to provide excellent care for all types of foot and ankle problems.
What's the difference between an Orthopedist and a Podiatrist?
Orthopedists treat musculoskeletal conditions only. Foot and ankle specialists treat those as well as diseases that affect joints and nerves; diseases that can be related to diabetes, flat feet, heel spurs, calluses, etc. Both types of doctors can perform surgery. CHI Health podiatrists have the advantage of working in an orthopedic group in which each doctor specializes in a specific area, such as hand, shoulder, joint replacement, trauma and sports injuries.
Conditions Treated by Podiatrists
A bunion is an enlargement of the big toe joint. The most noticeable feature of the bunion is the “large bump” on the inside of the foot and the movement of the big toe toward the lesser toes. The skin over the joint can become swollen and tender and is sensitive to pressure caused from wearing tight-fitting shoes. Bunions can be inherited, however some may result from injury.
People with bunions should wear shoes that conform to the shape of the foot and do not cause pressure areas. Often wearing felt or foam pads are also helpful in alleviating the pain. In severe cases, bunions can become disabling. There are several types of surgeries available that will relieve the pain and improve the appearance of the foot.
Corns and Calluses
Corns and calluses are the result of excessive friction or pressure on the skin, which causes the outer, dead layer of skin to thicken. When this protective layer of skin is formed on the bottom of the foot, it is referred to as a callus. When it develops on the top of the foot, it is a corn or when it occurs between two toes, it is called a soft corn. When the skin becomes too thick, it can lead to redness, pain and swelling.
• Athlete’s Foot
Sweaty feet can cause rashes and eczema, so avoid wearing nylon socks, plastic or tight-fitting shoes. Warts can resemble corns, but tend to occur without pressure from shoes. A wart is the skin’s reaction to a chronic virus infection. These painful and unpleasant conditions may respond to pads and over-the-counter ointment, but often require medical attention.
Hammertoes is a type of toe deformity resulting from the abnormal contraction and a muscle imbalance that leaves the toe in a bent position. The deformity can be aggravated by tight shoes and usually results in pain over the prominent bony areas on the top of the toe and at the end of the toe. Hammertoes are treated by wearing shoes that can better accommodate your deformed toe. Shoe inserts or pads may also help. If these methods fail and you are still uncomfortable, surgical treatment to straighten the toe
Plantar Heel Pain
Heel pain is extremely common. Pain both below and behind the heel often results from an irritation of the tissues, nerves or bone of the heel. This condition, commonly known as heel spurs, usually indicates a strain and rarely a serious bone or nerve problem.
Most cases of heel pain will improve spontaneously. Rest, heat and a new supportive pair of shoes will reduce the swelling of the soft tissues in your feet. If your pain persists, steroid injections or walking casts will be prescribed. Only in the most troubling and prolonged cases is surgery recommended.
The most common diagnosis for plantar heel pain is plantar fasciitis. This is an overuse injury affecting the sole or flexor surface of this foot. A diagnosis of this condition means that you have inflamed the tough, fibrous band of tissue connecting your heel bone to the base of your toes. Risk factors for this condition include gender (females are more prone to develop the condition), obesity, standing for extended periods, flat feet or very high arches.
Treatment consists of heel lifts, anti-inflammatory medications, ice massage, stretching and occasional formal physical therapy. Cortisone injections and casting may also be tried. Surgical interventions should be reserved for individuals when all conservative measures have failed.
Neuroma is an inflammation of a sensory nerve in the foot. It is most commonly found in the third and fourth toes, usually in response to irritation, trauma or excessive pressure. Women are eight to 10 times more likely to develop this condition than men. Signs of neuroma include burning pain in the ball of the foot that may radiate into the toes, pain that intensifies with activity or wearing shoes or numbness in the toes. Neuroma can be treated surgically and non-surgically.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease which causes the deterioration of the joint cartilage and other joint tissue. As a result of this deterioration new bones called bone spurs form at the margins of the bone. As the disease progresses, much of the cartilage is worn away causing bone ends to rub against one another.
There is no cure for arthritis, but the past decade has seen dramatic new ways to manage the pain.
Exercise and Rest
Prolonged rest and days of inactivity will increase stiffness and make it harder to move around. Motion is lotion for arthritis! At the same time, excessive or improper exercise can overwork your arthritic joint and cause further damage. A balanced routine of rest and exercise is best. Your physician may refer you to a physical therapist who can formulate a home exercise program just for you.