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Monday, 22 July 2019 00:00

The forefoot is composed of five metatarsal bones and fourteen phalanges. Each toe has three phalanges except for the big toe which only has two. Our toes play an essential role to the walking process, which is why a broken toe could seriously disrupt one’s ability to move around. Toe fractures are common and can be very painful. Fortunately, these injuries rarely require surgery and usually heal with rest and a change in activity.

Broken toes typically result from a traumatic event such as falling, stubbing the toe, or dropping something on the toe. Traumatic toe fractures may be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. At times, one may hear a “pop” or “crack” sound when the bone breaks. Common symptoms of a traumatic toe fracture include pain, throbbing, bruising, swelling, and redness.

Another type of toe fractures is a stress fracture. These injuries usually appear in the form of small hairline breaks on the bone. Stress fractures develop after repetitive activity instead of a single injury. Stress fractures occur when the muscles in the bone become too weak to absorb impact. Consequently, the toe bone becomes vulnerable to any pressure and impact it endures. Symptoms for a stress fracture in the toe include swelling without bruising, tenderness to the touch, pain that goes away with rest, and pain after walking or running.

If you suspect that you have a broken toe, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist. He or she will likely diagnose you by performing a physical exam and an X-ray. Treatment for a broken toe may include the R.I.C.E. method, buddy taping, surgery, or antibiotics. The R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is a common treatment method for many injuries because it decreases pain. Buddy tapping involves wrapping the injured toe next to an adjacent toe to keep it supported and protected. These two methods have proven to be effective in the healing process for toe fractures. The estimated healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. If the injury becomes infected or requires surgery, the estimated healing time may take eight weeks or more. 

Monday, 15 July 2019 00:00

Heel spurs are calcium deposits that cause bone protrusions on the heel bone. Heel spurs are usually associated with plantar fasciitis, which occurs when the plantar fasciitis in the foot becomes inflamed. Typically, heel spurs don’t cause any symptoms. However, they can produce chronic or intermittent heel pain. Those who have had the condition often describe the irritation as a stabbing pain.

There are risk factors that may make you more likely to develop heel spurs. People who have abnormal walking gaits, run and jog on hard surfaces, are obese, or wear poorly fitting shoes are more likely to develop heel spurs.

Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to avoid developing heel spurs. One of the best ways to do this is by wearing well-fitting shoes with shock-absorbent soles. Another preventative technique is to choose running shoes if you plan on running, and walking shoes if you plan on walking. Shoes are made for different activities and it is important to research a shoe before you purchase a pair.

The pain associated with heel spurs often decreases the more you walk. However, a recurrence of pain after an extended period of rest or walking is likely to occur with this condition. Those with severe heel spur pain may opt to go the surgical route for treatment.  However, more than 90% of those with the condition get better without surgical treatment. If you have a heel spur and want to know if surgery is right for you, you should go to your podiatrist and he or she will be able to conduct a pre-surgical test or exam to determine if you are an optimal candidate for surgery.

Monday, 08 July 2019 00:00

Debilitating foot pain is a problem for many people. But just as stretching the torso can help alleviate back pain, stretching the feet can also help mend existing foot problems and prevent future ones.

The feet, as the body’s foundation, carry the body’s entire weight and can get easily strained from overexertion. Persistent sharp pain and cramping in the feet are often common concerns. Foot pain and foot problems can be due to any number of causes, and in many cases pain may be eased without medication or doctor visits. It is always a good idea, however, to first rule out any serious medical issues with a physician.

Stretching can help relax the feet and alleviate pain, but is especially important before heavy aerobic exercise. Stretching before such activities can help you avoid experiencing painful cramps or strained foot muscles. Stretches should be performed slowly and deliberately without forceful pulling. The stretch should be held for several seconds before relaxing.

A great way to stretch out and loosen up the foot muscles while sitting is to cross one leg over the other and pull the toes carefully back without overextending. Start by resting the left ankle on the right knee. With the left hand, gently flex the left foot by pulling back on the toes. Do not pull too hard; just hard enough to feel the stretch in the arch of the foot. Then point the toes of the left foot as far as you can. Rotate the motion of pointing with pulling back on the toes. This should relax and stretch the muscles on the bottom and the top of the foot. Doing this stretch ten to twenty times should bring relief. Repeat the whole process for the other foot by resting the right ankle on the left knee.

A stretch that focuses on the often injured Achilles tendon involves standing and facing a wall with your arms out and hands flat against the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping it flat against the floor. Move the other leg forward and lean toward the wall. You should feel a stretch through the back of your leg and your Achilles tendon, but do not push yourself too much. Stop when you feel a stretching sensation, and hold for 30 seconds. Ten repetitions may be done for each foot.

Stretching the feet is important for athletes or those performing aerobic exercise, but it can also help anyone with foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours standing and walking. Individuals who tend to their feet by regularly stretching every day should be able to minimize foot pain and prevent new problems from arising.

Monday, 01 July 2019 00:00

Athlete’s foot is an extremely contagious infection caused by a fungus that results in itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is known as tinea pedis and thrives in moist, dark areas such as shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, commons areas, public changing areas, bathrooms, dormitory style houses, locker rooms, and public swimming pools. Athlete’s foot is difficult to treat as well because of the highly contagious and recurrent nature of the fungus.

Tinea is the same fungus that causes ringworm, and is spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by touching other objects and body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Because the feet are an ideal place for tinea to grow and spread, this is the most commonly affected area.  It is, however, known to grow in other places. The term athlete’s foot describes tinea that grows strictly on the feet.

The most commonly infected body parts are the hands, groin, and scalp, as well as the feet. Around 70% of the population suffer from tinea infections at some point in their lives, however not all of these cases are athlete’s foot. Just like any other ailment, some people are more likely to get it than others, such as people with a history of tinea infections or other skin infections, both recurring and non-recurring ones. The extent to which a person experiences regrowth and recurrent tinea infections varies from person to person.

Sometimes people will not even know that they are infected with tinea or that they have athlete’s foot because of a lack of symptoms. However, most experience mild to moderate flaking, itching, redness, and burning. However, some of the more severe symptoms include cracking and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, pain while walking or standing, and even blistering.

Because of the recurring nature of the tinea fungus and the athlete’s foot it causes, the best way to treat this condition is with prevention. You can take some preventative measures such as wearing flip flops or sandals in locker rooms and public showers to reduce contact with the floor. It also helps to keep clean, dry feet while allowing them to breathe. Using powders to keep your feet dry is a good idea, as well as keeping your feet exposed to light and cool air, to prevent the growth of tinea. If you do happen to get athlete’s foot, opt for using topical medicated creams, ointments or sprays. These treatments help eliminate and prevent it from coming back.

Monday, 24 June 2019 00:00

A bunion is an enlargement of the base joint of the toe that connects to the foot, often formed from a bony growth or a patch of swollen tissues. It is caused by the inward shifting of the bones in the big toe, toward the other toes of the foot. This shift can cause a serious amount of pain and discomfort. The area around the big toe can become inflamed, red, and painful.

Bunions are most commonly formed in people who are already genetically predisposed to them or other kinds of bone displacements. Existing bunions can be worsened by wearing improperly fitting shoes. Trying to cram your feet into high heels or running or walking in a way that causes too much stress on the feet can exacerbate bunion development. High heels not only push the big toe inward, but shift one's body weight and center of gravity towards the edge of the feet and toes, expediting bone displacement.

A podiatrist knowledgeable in foot structure and biomechanics will be able to quickly diagnose bunions. Bunions must be distinguished from gout or arthritic conditions, so blood tests may be necessary. The podiatrist may order a radiological exam to provide an image of the bone structure. If the x-ray demonstrates an enlargement of the joint near the base of the toe and a shifting toward the smaller toes, this is indicative of a bunion.

Wearing wider shoes can reduce pressure on the bunion and minimize pain, and high heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time. This may be enough to eliminate the pain associated with bunions; however, if pain persists, anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. Severe pain may require an injection of steroids near the bunion. Orthotics for shoes may be prescribed which, by altering the pressure on the foot, can be helpful in reducing pain. These do not correct the problem; but by eliminating the pain, they can provide relief.

For cases that do not respond to these methods of treatment, surgery can be done to reposition the toe. A surgeon may do this by taking out a section of bone or by rearranging the ligaments and tendons in the toe to help keep it properly aligned. It may be necessary even after surgery to wear more comfortable shoes that avoid placing pressure on the toe, as the big toe may move back to its former orientation toward the smaller toes.

Monday, 17 June 2019 00:00

Heel pain can be difficult to deal with, especially if you do not know what the underlying cause is. If you ignore your heel pain, the pain can magnify and potentially develop into a chronic condition. Depending on the location of your heel pain, you have developed a specific condition.  

One condition is plantar fasciitis.  Plantar fasciitis is caused by the inflammation of the plantar fascia, or the band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the base of the toes. The pain from this condition is initially mild but can intensify as more steps are taken when you wake up in the morning. To treat this condition, medication will likely be necessary. Plantar fasciitis is often associated with heel spurs; both require rest and special stretching exercises.

There are various options your podiatrist may suggest for heel pain.  Treatment options for heel pain typically include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which may reduce swelling and pain. Other options are physical therapy, athletic taping, and orthotics. In severe cases of heel pain, surgery may be required.

Preventing heel pain is possible.  If you are looking to prevent heel pain from developing in the future, be sure to wear shoes that fit you properly and do not have worn down heels or soles. Be sure to warm up properly before participating in strenuous activities or sports that place a lot of a stress on the heels. If you are experiencing any form of heel pain, speak with your podiatrist to determine the underlying cause and receive the treatment you need.

Monday, 10 June 2019 00:00

Each foot, on average, has about 250,000 eccrine sweat glands that produce half a pint of sweat each day. Sweating is a natural and important bodily function. It regulates the body’s temperature by cooling the skin so that it does not overheat.  In individuals with hyperhidrosis, the sympathetic nervous system works in "overdrive", producing far more sweat than what is required. People with plantar hyperhidrosis experience an excess amount of sweat on their feet. It is estimated that 2% to 3% of all Americans suffer from some form of hyperhidrosis. This condition is often caused by neurologic, endocrine, infectious, and other systemic disease. Other factors that may trigger the condition are heat and emotions.

People with hyperhidrosis may notice an overabundance of sweat on their feet, along with a strong odor. The feet may also have a wet appearance coupled with infections such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus. The sweat may even appear in low temperatures, such as during the winter months. People with plantar hyperhidrosis often need to change their socks several times throughout the day.

The specific cause of hyperhidrosis is unknown, and many believe it may be caused by over-activity. However, others believe the condition is genetic.  Caffeine and nicotine are known to cause excitement and nervousness which are two emotions that may make the condition worse.

If you are looking to treat your hyperhidrosis the most important thing you should do is wash your feet every day.  You may even need to wash your feet twice a day, if necessary.  You should also make sure you are wearing the right socks. Wool and cotton socks are both known to be good for ventilation, meaning they allow the feet to breathe. You should avoid socks made from nylon which trap moisture and lead to sogginess. Other common treatment options are over-the-counter antiperspirants that contain a low dose of metal salt.  In some cases, prescription strength antiperspirants that contain aluminum chloride hexahydrate may be necessary. In severe cases, surgery may be required.

Untreated hyperhidrosis can easily lead to complications.  Some complications that may arise from the disorder include nail infections, warts, and bacterial infections.  Consequently, it is important that you seek treatment from your podiatrist if you suspect that you may have plantar hyperhidrosis.

Monday, 03 June 2019 00:00

Over half of all runners encounter at least one injury per year. The reason for this is because many runners do not train properly. Injuries are almost inevitable due to the physical stress that running causes. While our bodies are great at adapting to the stress, it can only handle it in small doses. Injuries occur when the stress is applied too quickly for the body to handle, causing something within it to break down. With each step you take, your leg is absorbing two or three times your body’s weight.

Some of the most popular running injuries are shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and stress fractures. Shin splints cause pain along the inside or outside of the shins, and this pain is usually felt at the beginning of a run. The condition itself is defined as an inflammation of the muscles or tendons located around the shinbone. To treat shin splints, it is advised that you ice the shin area and stretch the calf muscles. To prevent this injury, you should slowly increase the distance you plan on running, instead of jumping into a more strenuous routine.

Achilles tendinitis is another common injury and it feels like pain along the back of the leg, toward the heel. This condition is defined as an inflammation of the Achilles which is the largest tendon in the body. The Achilles is responsible for connecting your calf muscles to the heel bone and it is caused by tight calf muscles. If you want to treat this injury, you should take a break from running to cross train with a low-impact activity.

There are a lot of common mistakes runners make that are causing them to experience injury. One mistake is stretching too much prior to warming up. If you plan to go on a run, you should warm up with a gentle 3-5-minute walk followed by a 5-minute run-walk.  Another common mistake is jumping into a routine too quickly. Consequently, you should incorporate cross-training into your routine. If you are looking to get active, you should slowly weave running into an activity you are currently participating in. For example, you can try bike riding for 40 minutes followed by a 10-minute run.

Another way to prevent running injuries is to choose shoes that are appropriate for running. There are certain things you should look for when buying a new pair of running shoes. An important factor in these sneakers is flexibility. Running shoes should be capable of bending and flexing at the forefoot. However, you should not be able to bend the entire shoe in half with ease because this is a sign that the shoe does not have enough structure. Additionally, you should look for the fit of the running shoes you want to purchase. It is best to visit a specialty running shoe store to have your feet properly sized. Choosing shoes that fit properly can prevent many foot ailments.

If you are suffering from any pain from running injuries, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist to discover the underlying cause of your pain. He or she will be able to help treat your condition in the best way possible.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019 00:00

Both running and walking are great exercises, but should a person wear the same shoes for both activities? The answer is no, because there is a difference between the way a person’s feet hit the ground when they are walking and when they are running. Therefore, the shoes for each activity are designed differently. Before you begin any exercise program it is always recommended that you speak with your doctor or podiatrist.

Walking is a low impact exercise that is often recommended by doctors to their patients. While walking is a simple activity, it still requires some degree of preparation. If you think about walking and how your feet strike the ground as you move, you will notice that your heel hits the ground first before your foot continues to roll forward and your next step begins. Because of this rolling motion, walking shoes are designed to be more flexible than running shoes. This flexibility helps the walker push off with each step taken.

Because the heel hits the ground first when you walk, walking shoes are designed to absorb most of the shock. Walking shoes should therefore have a beveled or angled heel. The angle of the heel helps absorb the shock and reduces pressure from the ankles. This is especially important for speed walkers, as their feet will hit the ground twice as often as the normal walker.

When people decide to run as a hobby or for their health, they must first realize that running is a high impact exercise. If not done with the proper equipment, running may cause damage to the feet and legs. Running shoes are designed to be more lightweight and to have thicker soles. The thicker soles act as shock absorbers for the rest of the body. Walking shoes often do not have the proper arch support that running shoes do.

A proper fitting shoe can make or break a runner or a walker. If the shoes are too big, their feet will slide back and forth inside the shoe and cause blisters. Whether you will be running or walking, the right equipment can make all of the difference in the world.

Monday, 20 May 2019 00:00

Stress fractures are small breaks in the bone that are caused by repetitive stress. They typically occur due to overuse, forcing the bones of the foot or ankle to continually absorb the full impact of each step taken. Stress fractures can also be caused by abnormal foot structure, osteoporosis, bone deformities, or wearing improper footwear during exercise.

Stress fractures are common for individuals whose daily activities cause high levels of impact on their feet and ankles. Those 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 intense, high impact workout may sustain stress fractures. This is because their muscles are not yet 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.

Pain from stress fractures typically occurs in the general area of the fracture. Pain can also manifest as “pinpoint pain” or pain that is felt when the site of the injury is touched, and can be accompanied by swelling. It may occur during or after activity, and it may disappear while resting and return when standing or moving. 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.

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, immobilization, or physical therapy. Under certain circumstances, surgery may be required to install support pins around the fracture to assist in healing.

If you are undergoing a new exercise regimen in running or some other kind of high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up muscle strength. 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 persist, consult with your podiatrist. Remembering these tips can help you prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue living normally.

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