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Tuesday, 26 December 2017 00:00

Stretching Your Feet

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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, 18 December 2017 00:00

What Are Hammertoes?

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Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity.  Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.

Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.

Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.

For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.

If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.

Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.  

Monday, 11 December 2017 00:00

The Importance of Biomechanics in Podiatry

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Biomechanics and its related study deal with the forces that act against the body and affect things like our movement. In podiatry, biomechanics are studied to determine the movement of the ankle, toes, and the foot, 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. These issues can also limit our bodies’ mobility that we often take for granted. Pain in the feet and ankles can also trickle up towards the lower legs, knees, hip, and even back area. This affects the way you move around on a daily basis.

Biomechanics and its related study deal with forces that act against the body and affect things like our movement. In podiatry, biomechanics are studied to determine the movement of the ankle, toes, and the foot, 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. These issues can also limit our bodies’ mobility that we often take for granted. Pain in the feet and ankles can also trickle up towards the lower legs, knees, hip, and even back area. This affects 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 founded Root Lab to make custom orthotics. He proposed that 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 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 take readings and also map out what treatment will do to the affected areas.

These advanced corrective methods were able to come to light thanks to an increase in both the technologies surrounding biomechanics and also the knowledge of how they work naturally. For example, shoe orthotics are able to treat walking inabilities by realigning the posture deviations in patients caused by hip or back problems. Understanding foot biomechanics can help improve movement and eliminate pain, stopping further stress to the foot. Speak with your podiatrist if you have any of these problems.

Tuesday, 05 December 2017 00:00

Pregnancy and Foot Health

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Many pregnant women complain about foot pain while they are expecting. Foot pain can primarily be caused by weight gain and hormonal changes taking place in the body. By understanding how pregnancy impacts the health of a woman's feet, a pregnant woman can take action to keep her feet as healthy and comfortable as possible.

Because a woman's weight changes during pregnancy, more pressure is brought to bear on both the legs and the feet. This weight shift can cause two major foot problems: over-pronation, also known as flat feet, as well as edema, which is swelling of the feet. Over-pronation occurs when the arch of the foot flattens, causing the foot to roll inwards when the individual is walking, and can aggravate the plantar fascia tissues located along the bottom of the feet. If these tissues become inflamed, a pregnant woman can experience pain in the heel of the foot as well as severe foot pain while walking or standing. Swelling of the feet, or edema, often occurs in the later stages of pregnancy. It is caused by slow circulation and water retention, and may turn the feet a light purple color.

To keep feet in good health and prevent over-pronation, pregnant women should avoid walking barefoot and be sure they are wearing shoes that offer good arch support. A device known as an orthotic can be added to regular footwear in order to provide additional support for the feet during pregnancy. Any expectant mother whose feet hurt should first check to see if the shoes she is wearing are old, worn out and not offering the proper support necessary for distributing the weight of her body during pregnancy.

To treat edema of the feet, a good start is to wear quality footwear which offers support and good circulation. Keep feet elevated whenever possible by using a foot stool while seated. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water to prevent water retention in the feet. Any swelling that occurs in only one foot should be examined as soon as possible by a doctor.

Good foot health during pregnancy can help expectant mothers avoid foot pain that leads to other health problems. Massaging the feet and doing regular gentle exercise like walking aids foot health by contributing to good circulation. Supportive shoes are also a good investment that will support foot health during pregnancy.

Monday, 27 November 2017 00:00

Ingrown Toenail Care

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An ingrown toenail is a toenail that grows sideways into the nail bed, causing pain and swelling. Ingrown toenails can worsen and cause drainage, turning into a serious infection.

Several factors affect whether a person is at risk from an ingrown toenail. The many causes include being overweight, diabetes, participating in sports, having a fungal infection of the toe, and cutting your nails too short. Ingrown toenails also have a genetic predisposition, causing some people to be more prone to receive the condition than others. Other causes include improperly fitting shoes and shoes that keep the feet damp.

Ingrown toenails can be preventable with certain measures. For starters, allowing your toe nails to grow slightly longer in length will help prevent them from becoming ingrown. If you have already developed an ingrown toenail, soak the affected toe in warm water. This will alleviate the pain and help prevent an infection from forming. Antibiotic soap or Epsom salts may be added to further help the relieving process and avoid infection. Placing cotton beneath the affected area is also suggested, as this may help the toenail grow upwards and not into the nail bed. Swelling and redness can be reduced by resting with your feet elevated.

A podiatrist should be seen if the pain becomes so serious that it prevents you from doing your everyday activities. If a red streak running up your leg appears or if you suspect your infection has spread, contact a podiatrist immediately. Fast treatments can be undertaken to lessen your pain and have you walking comfortably.

An ingrown toenail can be easily treated with a Band-Aid. Simply wrap the affected toe with a Band-Aid to prevent infection and keep the nail from growing out at a painful angle.

In more serious cases, your podiatrist may decide to make a small incision to remove a portion of your toenail. To prevent the nail from growing back, medication will be placed directly into the nail bed. This procedure would be performed under local anesthesia and is a faster method to alleviate discomfort from an ingrown toenail. Post-procedure directions will have you stay off the affected foot for a day. Afterwards, normal activities can be resumed.  

Monday, 20 November 2017 00:00

Every Day Foot Care

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Our feet are important in our everyday lives. The problem is that we tend to neglect them. When this becomes a habit, it can cause significant trouble. Ignoring foot problems can mean pain, limited mobility, and expensive doctor's visits. On the other hand, if feet are cared for and looked after regularly, they will perform without pain or complication.

Routine hygiene is the most basic way to care for the feet. Wash and dry them thoroughly daily. Remember to get between the toes and keep the toenails trimmed and short. If the feet feel dry or there are signs of dryness or cracking, use a moisturizer designed for the feet.

When using moisturizer on the feet, try to avoid applying between the toes. If cream or lotion sits too long, they can cause fungal and bacterial growth. When moisturizer is used between the toes, it can also cause the skin to soften too much.

Shoes are also an important aspect of foot care. When one is picking out shoes, make sure they are the correct size. Shoes need to be snug, but not too tight. On the other hand, if shoes are too loose they can cause foot problems as well. It is highly recommended that shopping for new shoes be done later in the day. The reason for this is that the feet will have settled and swelled to their full size by then. To keep your feet at their most healthy, avoid wearing high heels or flip flops too often. Instead, choose shoes that are good for your feet. Good shoes pad the soles of your feet and support the arches and ankles.

Socks should also be worn daily with closed-toe shoes. They may feel hot during the summer months, but they absorb sweat and moisture off the feet. Without socks, the build-up of sweat in a closed-toe shoe can cause fungal problems and athlete's foot.

The best thing to remember in every day foot care is that shoes do make a difference. If you spend a lot of time on your feet, make sure that your shoes show no signs of wear. Shoes should offer ample support for the arches and the overall foot. Additionally, try to make foot cleaning and maintenance a daily habit. If you keep these things in mind, your feet will stay healthy and safe.

Sunday, 12 November 2017 00:00

Foot Therapy for Sports Injuries

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Whether in practice or in the game, athletes put their bodies through great stress. Some sports demand more from the body than others. However, every sport has an element of inorganic movement or unnatural motion. For example, in softball, a pitcher winds up and flings her body with an incredible amount 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.

One of the most common issues of athletic injuries happens in the feet. If it’s a damaging fracture that leaves the athlete sidelined or just a simple turf toe, foot injuries can still be very frustrating and painful. Regardless of the sport, athletes still require use of their feet in some fashion. This is why foot therapy is extremely vital for getting athletes back on the right track 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 has proven to work for millions of people. Professional physical therapists are specifically trained to help people return to proper form from any injury.

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 this, 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 to activate and relax muscles. Over time you will eventually move up to strengthening exercises, designed specifically so that the injured area is exercised.

Foot therapy for sports is a modern science miracle. Unlike other treatments that may employ the use of fancy chemicals and terminology, physical therapy is an evidence-based practice that offers the same benefits. Due to huge advancements in the knowledge of muscles and joints, doctors can turn catastrophic injuries around so that athletes can return to the game once more. 

Monday, 06 November 2017 00:00

Sever's Disease

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Sever's disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a medical condition that causes heel pain in children’s feet while they’re growing. Sever's disease occurs most commonly in boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 14.

Sever's disease occurs when the child’s growth plate, or the calcaneal epiphysis, an area attached to the Achilles tendon, is injured or when the muscles and tendons of the growing foot do not keep pace with bone growth. The result is constant pain experienced at the back of the heel and the inability to put any weight on the heel. This forces the child to bear weight on their toes while walking. When a toe gait develops, the child must change the way they walk to avoid placing weight on the painful heel. If this is not properly addressed, this can lead to further developmental problems.

The most common symptom of Sever's disease is acute pain felt in the heel when a child engages in physical activity such as walking, jumping or running. Children who are active athletes are among the group most susceptible to experiencing Sever's disease. This is due to the extreme stress and tension placed on their growing feet. The rolling movement of the foot during walking or running and obesity are both additional conditions linked to causing Sever's disease.

The first step in treating Sever's disease is to rest the foot and leg and avoid physical activity. Over the counter pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful for reducing the amount of heel pain. A child with Sever's disease should also wear shoes that properly support the heel and the arch of the foot. Consider purchasing orthotic shoe inserts which can help support the heel and foot while it is healing. Most patients with Sever's disease symptoms report an eventual elimination of heel pain after wearing orthotic insoles that support the affected heel.

Sever's disease may affect either one heel or both. It is important for a child experiencing heel pain to be examined by a foot doctor who can apply the squeeze test. The squeeze test compresses both sides of the heel in order to determine if there is intense pain. Discourage any child diagnosed with Sever's disease from going barefoot as this can intensify the problem. Apply ice packs to the affected painful heel two or three times a day for pain relief.

Exercises that help stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever's disease. An exercise known as foot curling has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever's disease. When foot curling, the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body to help stretch the muscles. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions and repeated several times throughout the day.

Treatment methods can continue for at least 2 weeks and as long as 2 months before the heel pain completely disappears. A child can continue doing daily stretching exercises for the legs and feet to prevent Sever’s disease from returning.

Monday, 30 October 2017 00:00

What are Achilles Tendon Injuries

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The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the human body. Its purpose is to connect the lower leg muscles and calf to the heel of the foot. This tendon is responsible for facilitating all types of movement, like walking and running. This tendon provides an enormous amount of mobility for the body. Any injuries inflicted to this tissue should be immediately brought up with a physician to prevent further damage.

The most common injuries that can trouble the Achilles tendon are tendon ruptures and Achilles tendinitis. Achilles tendinitis is the milder of the two injuries. It can be recognized by the following symptoms: inflammation, dull to severe pain, an increased flow of blood to the tendon, thickening of the tendon, and slower movement time. Tendinitis can be treated via several methods and is often diagnosed by an MRI.

An Achilles tendon rupture is trickier to heal, and is by far the most painful injury. It is caused by the tendon ripping or completely snapping. The results are immediate and absolutely devastating, and will render the patient immobile. If a rupture or tear occurs, operative and non-operative methods are available. Once the treatment begins, depending on the severity of the injury, recovery time for these types of issues can take up to a year.
 

Simple preventative measures can be taken as a means to avoid both injuries. Prior to any movement, taking a few minutes to stretch out the tendon is a great way to stimulate the tissue. Calf raises, squats, leg curls, leg extensions, leg raises, lunges, and leg presses are all suggested ways to help strengthen the lower legs and promote Achilles tendon health.

Many problems arise among athletes and people who overexert themselves while exercising. Problems can also happen among those who do not properly warm up before beginning an activity. Proper, comfortable shoes that fit correctly can also decrease tendon injuries. Some professionals also suggest that when exercising, you should make sure that the floor you are on is cushioned or has a mat. This will relieve pressure on the heels. A healthy diet will also increase tendon health.

It is very important to seek out a podiatrist if you believe you have an injury in the Achilles region. Further damage could result in severe complications that would make being mobile difficult, if not impossible.

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is often caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is usually the result of a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis, can be the result of excess calcium and cholesterol in the bloodstream. This restricts how much blood can flow through arteries. Reduced blood flow to a certain area of the body severely limits the amount of oxygen and nutrients that part of the body receives. This leads to degeneration in the muscles and other tissues. Sometimes, poor blood circulation in the feet and legs can be caused by other conditions, such as the damaging or inflammation of blood vessels, known as vasculitis.

The lack of oxygen and nutrients caused by poor blood circulation can restrict muscle growth and development, as well as cause muscle pain and cramps, weakness, and stiffness. Other common symptoms include numbness in the legs and feet, skin discoloration in the affected limbs, slower nail and hair growth, and erectile dysfunction in men. In more severe cases of PAD, pain can be present even when a person isn't exercising, and may range from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating.

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is more common in those who are overweight or obese, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, who smoke, or who have a family history of PAD or related conditions such as a heart attack, stroke, etc. Diabetes and smoking place a person at greatest risk for developing poor blood circulation, although advanced age, over 50, can also increase risk.

If you are experiencing poor blood circulation in the feet and legs caused by PAD, it is important to make changes to your lifestyle in order to reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke caused by this condition. If you smoke, quit completely. This will increase the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Exercising and reducing the saturated fats in your diet. Saturated fats come from fatty meats, fried foods, whole milk, etc., can make a difference in improving blood circulation in feet. It is also important to avoid developing influenza and to carefully control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.

Your doctor may recommend combining lifestyle changes with a prescription medication regimen to improve blood circulation. The most commonly-used medications for PAD are called statins and work by blocking the amount of enzymes in your body that produce cholesterol. They are known by the brand names Zocor, Lipitor, Crestor, and others.

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