Monday, 04 May 2015 00:00

Elderly and their Feet

While proper foot care is important for everybody, senior citizens have the tendency to be more susceptible to certain conditions and should therefore be well informed about problems that may arise and what they can do to properly avoid or treat them.

Some of the most common problems are foot ulcers, ingrown toenails, fallen arches, and fungal infection. A foot ulcer is an open sore on the foot and  can be a result of decreased sensation in the feet. An ingrown toenail is defined as when the nail grows into the side of the toe. Fallen arches are indicated by the instep of the foot collapsing. A fungal infection is a condition that results in deformed and discolored toenails.

In order to avoid these conditions it is recommended that the feet be inspected by the patient on a regular basis. If these inspections are carried out routinely, there is a good likelihood that problems can be identified before they become severe, or can even be avoided altogether. If any abnormality is discovered, it is important that the individual consult a doctor for diagnosis and information on treatment options.

Proper foot hygiene is also important. Making sure that you always have clean, dry socks on can be a major deterrent to many different problems including bacterial infections, foot odor, and certain types of fungus. Wet feet are a major cause of many of these problems.  If your socks get wet, it is important to change them. Walking around in wet socks may not only lead to various infections, but can irritate the skin and result in a number of various complications. Clean, dry feet are less likely to be affected by fungal and other infections.

As people age, the fat present on your feet begins to deteriorate. The protective nature of this fat keeps the feet healthy by providing a barrier and between your bones and the ground as well as giving the skin on the foot a certain amount of elasticity. This is one factor that causes elderly people to develop some serious foot issues. Foot moisturizers can be helpful to avoid certain problems associated with this. However, water-based moisturizers do not work as well for elderly people as they do for the young. Instead, it is more effective to use an emollient instead. An emollient is effective because it binds the water in the foot, keeping it from becoming absorbed too readily which will result in dry skin.

They also have a special property called occlusion, which provides a layer of oil on the skin. This layer prevents the foot from drying up and can be very effective in treating dry skin disorders.  If you can keep the skin on your feet healthy, this will substantially reduce the number of foot problems you will encounter in old age.

Proper footwear is another way to keep feet healthy. Shoes that fit well and provide proper support help prevent ingrown toenails and fallen arches.

Certain medical conditions such as diabetes or poor blood circulation increase the risk for foot issues. For individuals with any of these conditions it is extremely important to conduct regular foot inspections to make sure that there are no sores or infections present.

 

Are your shoes the right size? Many people are walking around with ill-fitting shoes. Picking the right shoe size is not rocket science, but there are a few things to remember when selecting your next pair.

Most shoe stores and department stores have rulers for measuring your feet, and these can give you an exact size. Be sure to measure with your shoe on. Measuring your foot will give you a different size than your shoe. If you do measure your foot size, you will need to add 1-2 inches to get the proper sizing.

Wiggle room is the most important factor when selecting shoes. Make sure that your toes are not cramped and that you can wiggle them. A rule of thumb is that there should be one inch between your toes and the tip of your shoe. If your shoes are not properly sized, you can experience foot pain, knee pain, blisters and swelling.

Don’t assume that you will always wear the same size in a shoe. Often manufacturers size shoes differently. The size you wear with one company may not be the same as the size you wear with another. Make sure that the company you buy from has a return policy. No one needs a closet full of shoes which they cannot wear.

It is advisable not to buy your shoes in the morning, but rather late in the day. Your feet actually swell as the day goes on and you need plenty of room to walk comfortably. Buying shoes in the morning that are snug is sure to cause problems once the day is done. Also, make sure that you are buying the right sizes for both feet. It is not uncommon for one foot to be larger than the other, and some people have to buy two separate sizes to accommodate different sized feet.

The biggest concern in buying shoes is comfort. Oftentimes people will buy shoes that are not the most comfortable in the store. People think that the shoes simply need to be “broken in”. If a shoe does not fit in the store, it will not fit at home either. Comfort should be the ultimate goal when purchasing a pair of shoes; your feet will thank you.

Let’s face it; we all walk a lot, some of us more than others. Selecting the best shoes for your particular lifestyle is essential. By properly sizing your shoes and buying the proper comfort level, your feet will be dancing all day long.

Monday, 20 April 2015 00:00

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, 13 April 2015 00:00

How Obesity Affects Your Feet

Maybe you have gained a few extra pounds over the past couple of years. It comes on slowly and you are not always aware of it until your feet start hurting at the end of the day. After all, they carry the weight of your whole body. Experiencing foot pain and swelling is one of the biggest side effects of being overweight.

Many problems that occur in the feet are directly related to carrying even a small amount of extra weight. If you are overweight, the body may try to compensate by changing the way it moves. You may lean forward a bit and put extra weight on the wrong part of the foot. Your feet were designed to carry a normal amount of body weight and any extra will put undue stress on them.

Many people who are overweight as adults develop type 2 diabetes and it is often the cause of leg and foot pain. This is very serious and often older people who do not control their condition may lose all feeling in their legs and feet. It is also possible to develop small sores on the feet, and when you have diabetes, these do not always heal properly which can lead to serious infection.

The extra pressure and stress placed on muscles, joints, and tendons in the feet by extra body weight can also trigger plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the foot, and causes pain and stiffness when walking and climbing stairs. Pain caused by plantar fasciitis can be relieved by foot stretches and orthotics inserted into the shoe.

Foot problems triggered by excess body weight may be treated by special attention to footwear. Shoes that properly support the foot – especially the arch and ankle – and allow for good circulation are very important. A podiatrist can help you decide what kind of shoe is best for your feet. Orthotics – special inserts that can be inserted into shoes – can absorb shock, support the arches, and keep the feet properly aligned. These can be found in shoe stores or may be fitted by a podiatrist.

It may also be time to consider taking off a few pounds to prevent diabetes and other life threatening diseases. Your feet will certainly thank you for it and you will feel better in a short amount of time. A water aerobics class at a local gym is a way to get needed exercise without putting any stress on the feet or ankles. Yoga is also an activity that is beneficial both to your feet and your entire body. Don't risk losing your freedom by ignoring foot pain. If you take care of your feet, you can keep your feet and your entire body feeling great.

Stress fractures occur in the foot and ankle when muscles in those areas are weakened from too much or too little use. When this happens, they stop cushioning the foot and ankles from the impact of hitting the ground. Because there is nothing to protect them, the bones of the foot begin to absorb the full impact of each step someone takes. The added stress causes little cracks to form in the bones that are under the most pressure. These cracks are called stress fractures.

Stress fractures are common for individuals whose daily activities cause high levels of impact on their feet and ankles. Individuals who run, play tennis or basketball, or practice gymnastics tend to experience these fractures more frequently. Anyone is susceptible to this problem, though. Individuals who are normally sedentary and suddenly begin an intensive high impact work out may get stress fractures. This is because their muscles are not strong enough to handle and cushion the intensity of their activity. Osteoporosis may also cause someone to get stress fractures, because the disease weakens an afflicted person's bones and makes it easier for them to break down.

The pain from these fractures will occur in the general area of the fracture. It may be intermittent or constant, and will cause sharp or dull pain along with swelling and tenderness. Engaging in any kind of activity, high impact or otherwise, will aggravate the pain. If the intensity of the activity increases before the stress fracture has properly healed, it can cause a full fracture. This is a much more serious problem, and will probably prevent you from applying any pressure on the foot at all.

Treatment can vary depending on the individual and the degree of injury. The primary way to treat a stress fracture is to rest the hurt foot. Some fractures will heal quickly with only a little bit of rest, while others may require a long rest period and the use of crutches. Under certain circumstances, surgery may be required to install support pins around the fracture to assist in healing.

In order to avoid getting stress fractures, make sure to get plenty of calcium and Vitamin-D. They will help to keep your bones strong, and make them less likely to break under pressure. If your new exercise regimen is running or some other kind of high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up muscle strength. For example, if you plan to walk every day, you could ride a bike on some days to take the stress off of your feet. Make sure to wear supportive shoes to better protect you feet.

If you begin to experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If the symptoms do not go away, see an orthopedic specialist. Remembering these tips can help you prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue living normally.

Monday, 30 March 2015 00:00

When is Foot Surgery Necessary

Foot surgery may be necessary for a variety of reasons, but it is normally reserved for cases in which less invasive procedures have failed to help with the problem. Cases in which surgery may be deemed necessary include, but are not limited to, surgically removing deformities of the foot (such as bone spurs and bunions), problems with arthritis that have caused severe bone issues within the foot, and reconstruction to attend to injuries caused by accidents and congenital malformation (such as club foot and flat feet). Foot surgery may be necessary for individuals of all ages and races.

If you find yourself in need of foot surgery, the reason why the surgery has been found to be necessary will dictate exactly what kind of surgery you need. If you have to have a growth, such as a bunion, removed, then you may undergo a bunionectomy. If your bones need to be realigned and fused together, then you may undergo a surgical fusion of the foot. If it is nerve pain and problems that you are enduring, then you may need to undergo surgery in which the tissue that surrounds the painful nerve is surgically removed. Normally other, less serious treatments are first applied when a problem is discovered, but if those treatments are found to be ineffective, surgical techniques are considered and used.

Even though surgery of the foot is usually reserved as a last resort by most physicians, there are some benefits if you and your doctor choose to use surgery to fix the problem. The first is that the pain associated with the issue is normally relieved, which means that you can finally resume the activities your foot problem was preventing you from participating in. The second benefit is that, once you have the surgery completed, the problem is generally eliminated since it has finally been addressed.

History of podiatry has shown that foot surgery techniques continue to advance every year. Endoscopic surgery is just one of the many advancements that have been made in the field of foot surgery. As technology improves, foot surgical techniques will also continue to improve. Many procedures can now be completed using a very small incision and smaller, more refined instruments. Because of these better tools, surgeries are becoming less invasive, and recovery time has become a great deal shorter. Shorter recovery periods mean that you will be back on your feet in no time.

Monday, 09 March 2015 00:00

Flat Feet

Flat feet is a foot condition in which the arch of the foot either drops or is never developed. About 20-30% of the population generally has flat feet because their arch never formed during growth. While it is common in babies and small children, it can become a problem if the arch never develops. For adults, the development of flat feet can be brought upon by injury, or may even be a result of pregnancy due to the increased elasticity; however, in adults the flat footedness is usually permanent.

Having flat feet can sometimes make it difficult to walk due to the stress it places on the ankles. The general alignment of your legs is thrown off because the ankles move more inward which can cause some major discomfort. This also has a big effect on the knees as many people that have flat feet often have arthritis in that area. However, in many cases, flat feet does not cause any pain and it should not be a cause for concern in that case.

For those that run, there are specific shoes to help realign the ankles with a lot more support and less pronation. The weight shifting in this activity is very quick, so that's why it's important to know if you have flat feet early on in your life, in case of injury down the road. 

The wet footprint test can be an indicator to diagnosing flat feet. In this test, the individual would place a flat foot on a surface in order to show a footprint. If there is no indentation or indication of an arch, that person may have flat feet. In all cases, it is best to consult a podiatrist if flat feet is suspected or noticed.

Once flat feet has been diagnosed, it can be treated by walking barefoot in beach-like terrain, or wearing insoles. There are two types of flat feet; one being rigid, where the feet appear to have no arch even when the person is not standing, and the other being flexible where the person appears to have an arch while not standing, but once standing the arch goes away. In the case of flexible flat feet, unless there is pain caused by the condition, there is no need for treatment. However, if it causes pain or in the case of rigid flat feet, exercises and orthotic insoles may be prescribed in order to help the arches develop.

In some cases when the condition is severe and all other methods have been exhausted surgery may be required but this is normally avoided due to a lengthy recovery time and high cost.

Friday, 06 March 2015 00:00

Cracked Heels

Cracked heels can be embarrassing, and can make life frustrating when sandal season comes around. But not only are they an aesthetic problem – they can also tear stockings, socks and even wear out shoes faster at the back, and when severe may cause pain and infection.

Cracked heels are a problem for many who walk a lot, who are athletic, and who have especially dry skin. Those who are using certain kinds of medication that will dry the skin, who swim a lot, wear certain kinds of shoes, and those who are diabetic may also have trouble with cracked heels. Seniors may have more trouble with cracked heels than others, since the skin’s production of oils decreases with age. There is no one way to get cracked heels, and there is no one cure for them.

Today there are numerous products on the market that have a variety of ingredients to promote healing. Some of these products are over-the-counter and some come from a physician’s prescription pad--especially for those who have chronic dry feet and heels.

Some doctors recommend for those with rough skin to wear socks at night when they sleep. This helps promote healing of the skin on the heels and helps any creams put on the feet stay on longer and better sink into the skin.

Using moisturizers both day and night is one way to help alleviate the dryness that causes cracked heels. Making sure that the skin is clean and dry at all times is another way. Using a pumice stone to remove dead skin before applying a moisturizer can also help, as many times cracked heels will not respond to moisturizers unless the thick outer layer of skin is first removed through exfoliation. Lotion or ointment applied after exfoliation will be absorbed by the skin much more easily.

Eating a well-balanced diet with foods that promote body healing and balance can also help the skin – from within. Whatever is put into the body can either help it or hurt it and foods that give the body staying power will permeate throughout, especially through the first line of protection--the skin. Taking supplements of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc may also help cracked heels.

Not all products that say they will help cracked heels actually work. See a professional for foot care if nothing being tried is working. A podiatrist or a dermatologist should be able to give information and advice to help with the problem.

 
Friday, 20 February 2015 12:02

Morton's Neuroma

Morton's neuroma is a painful foot condition that commonly affects the areas between the third and fourth toe and the ball of the foot. Other areas of the foot can also be susceptible to this condition. Morton’s neuroma is caused by an inflamed nerve in the foot that is being squeezed and aggravated by surrounding bones.  Women are more likely than men to have an occurrence of this foot condition. When a person has Morton's neuroma, it can feel as if they are walking on stones or marbles.

There are risk factors that can increase a person's chance of having Morton's neuroma. Ill-fitting high heels or shoes can add pressure to the toe or foot area. Jogging, running and any other sports that involve constant impact to the foot area can make a person more susceptible to this condition. If a person has flat feet, bunions or any other foot deformities, it can put them at a higher risk for developing Morton's neuroma.

There is no one major sign that indicates a person has Morton's neuroma, but rather certain symptoms to look for. A person who has burning in the ball of the foot or tingling and numbness in the toe areas are signs they may have Morton's neuroma. The pain increases greatly when wearing shoes or being active. There usually is little or no pain at night.

If a person suspects that they have this condition, they should visit their doctor. A physician will check for palpable masses between the bones of the foot. A doctor will also apply pressure to the foot or toe area to replicate the pain a person experiences when active. Range of motion tests and X-rays are other options a doctor may offer a patient to rule out other conditions or problems.

Treating Morton's neuroma can be as simple as changing the type of shoes a person wears. Wear wider shoes or flat shoes with a soft sole. Doing this may help reduce the pressure on the nerve that is aggravated. If necessary, a person can have a cortisone injection to help reduce swelling and pain in the foot area.

If these methods don't relieve the symptoms, consulting with an orthopedic surgeon should be the next option. During a consultation, a patient will find out about the treatment methods available for Morton's neuroma. A surgeon can release the tissue around the nerve that is causing this pain, or they can remove a small area of the nerve completely. There is a short recovery time for this type of surgery, and afterward, patients can return to their normal lifestyle.

 
Monday, 26 January 2015 00:00

Treating Heel Pain with Shockwave Therapy

Heel pain shockwave therapy is a treatment option that helps to treat plantar fascia, which is a type of heel and foot inflammation that causes pain to the heel area. This type of injury is often caused by overworking and overusing the feet, and normally happens to people that exercise often such as runners, athletes, obese and overweight individuals, and individuals whose profession requires them to stand for long periods of time.

Since heel pain can be caused by a number of problems including poorly fitting shoes, exercise routines, work hazards, and many more, most plantar fascia treatments include very conservative techniques. Simple things like new shoes, taking ibuprofen, doing heel and foot exercises, and resting your feet can treat the problem. However, for the worst cases, using shockwave therapy is often the best treatment option.

For patients that have tried conventional treatment options, and failed at them, and who have been having heel pains for over six months, Shockwave treatment is often the next option. The concept behind this treatment is simple; shockwaves are generated from a device that delivers shockwaves to the outside of the patients body, and the shockwaves will cause the bodies repair mechanisms to work more efficiently and effectively, and in the end, start repairing the damage done to the heel area.

The goal of shockwave therapy is to eliminate the pain in the heel area, and this should happen because shockwaves trigger the body’s natural repair mechanisms. Basically, this therapy speeds up normal tissue healing in the body, and will also lead to a reduction in pain for the patient by working the pain transmission nerves located in the heel area.

The reason this treatment is gaining popularity is because it is less invasive than surgery, and eliminates the risk factors associated with surgery, such as anesthetic usage. Since this technique also works by helping the body to improve using natural healing techniques, the recovery time should be shorter than surgical processes.

This does not mean that there are not some discomfort issues that can arise out of this treatment for patients. Short term issues normally include skin bruising, minor pain during and after treatment, swelling of the heel, and discolored tissue. These side effects of shockwave therapy should be gone in a few days, giving the patient a fast recovery time which makes it easy to return to the routines of their daily life .

Like most types of treatments, surgeries, and medications, there are certain people that should not have shockwave therapy procedures performed on them. Potential patients with heart conditions and people with pacemakers should not be considered for this technique. People on certain types of medications, usually medications affecting blood clotting, would also be ineligible for this treatment option. And lastly, children and pregnant women should avoid this as well.

Overall, shockwave therapy could be a great option for heel pain because it is less invasive than surgery, helps to trigger the natural healing mechanisms of the body, and should be considered by people who have had long bouts of heel pain, who have tried conventional treatment options that failed, and who have the money to afford such a procedure.

Monday, 19 January 2015 00:00

What Are Ankle/Foot Orthotics?

Orthotics is a medical field concerned with the design, manufacture and use of aids used to support weak limbs or direct the proper function of limbs, in this case the foot and ankle. Ankle-foot orthotics, or AFOs, are braces worn at the ankle that encompass some or all of the foot. Diseases that affect the musculature or weaken the affected area require AFOs to strengthen the muscles or train in the proper direction. Tight muscles that need to be lengthened and loosened also benefit from AFOs.

When we think of diseases that affect the musculature we think of the big boys: muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, polio and multiple sclerosis. We rarely think that arthritis and stroke can affect the musculature or that there are some who "toe in". But whatever trauma affects that musculature, there is a way to correct it. The orthosis helps to control range of motion, provide support by stabilizing walk, correct deformities and manage pain load. A podiatrist would be consulted for those who "toe in", for instance, or an arthritis sufferer whose ankles suffer through walking on the job or perhaps a victim of stroke whose musculature is wasting away and requires strength.

Before the advent of modern orthotic devices, it wasn’t uncommon to see polio victims wearing metal braces from mid thigh to the bottom of the foot, or children who "toed in" wearing metal braces around their ankle and foot. However, both designs and materials have improved dramatically, allowing for new levels of comfort, functionality, and appearance. Many orthotics are now made from plastics in the shape of an L and designed to fit inside a corrective shoe. These can be rigid, buckling at the calf and extending the length of the foot to support the ankle. This same design except with a hinged ankle provides support while walking by normalizing the gait. In the past boots lined with leather and fiberboard provided the rigidity needed for correction and support. Now corrective shoes are available with built up soles to correct the gait or manage pain by sharing it with another area when the foot spreads during walking.

The podiatrist would prescribe this orthosis in the rigid L shape because the foot moves on a hinge. If the hinge isn't functioning as intended due to an injury or malformation, the muscles tighten up, thus making it difficult to flex the foot. When we walk, the foot flexes and muscles stretch. This brace or AFO would support the ankle and musculature during flexion of the foot, in much the same way a knee brace works. Corrective shoes are for people whose feet hit the ground backward, causing tight muscles and arch problems. Wedges and rocker bars on the heels correct the step to heel first and rock onto the ball of the foot, resulting in relaxed musculature and strengthened ankles.

Appearance also counts when we consider a particular support device, especially if the item is intended for regular, daily wear. The L shaped orthotic is contoured to the calf and flesh-colored, fitting into a sneaker or dress shoe. As present, corrective shoes are more attractive than past models, enabling patients wear such devices with greater comfort and confidence.

Monday, 12 January 2015 00:00

Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Feet

Although rheumatoid arthritis actually attacks multiple bones and joints throughout the entire body, ninety percent of people who actually develop this condition usually do so in the foot or ankle area. Those who develop this kind of arthritis in the feet usually develop symptoms around the toes and forefeet first, before anywhere else. Rheumatoid arthritis appears to have a genetic component. If it runs in the family, then you will be more likely to develop it as well.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of the membranes surrounding the joints. This causes inflammation of the membrane lining, and the gradual destruction of the joint’s cartilage and even bone.

Some of the most common symptoms that are associated with RA include pain and swelling of the feet. Stiffness in the feet is also another common symptom that people experience. Those who have RA in the feet usually feel the pain in the ball or sole of their feet. This can get to be very painful at times. A person's joints can even shift and become deformed after a period of time.

In order to properly diagnose RA in the feet it is usually necessary for a doctor or podiatrist to evaluate the area. Your doctor will also question you about your medical history, occupation, etc., to determine whether anything in your lifestyle may have triggered the condition. There are a number of tests that may be performed to help diagnose RA such as a rheumatoid factor test, although there is no one single test that will tell you for sure if you have RA. There are different X-rays that can be taken as well to determine if a person has RA in their feet.

There is a range of treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment of RA is usually a lifelong process that includes a variety of methods of treatment and therapy. Your doctor can prescribe special shoes that should help with arch support as well as heel support. A physical therapist can help those with this condition learn exercises which will keep their joints flexible. Surgery may be needed to correct some of the issues with the feet, such as bunions, and hammertoes. Fusion is usually the most successful surgical option for rheumatoid arthritis. However, people need to keep in mind that there are some risks associated with these surgeries.

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