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Thursday, 26 September 2013 13:09

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.

Friday, 06 September 2013 03:52

Broken Foot Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

A broken foot is when one of the bones located in the foot fractures, or breaks. About 10% of broken bones occur in the foot.

Bones typically break when an object crushes, bends, or stretches the bone. In the foot, the location of the broken bone is usually indicative of how the break occurred. Toes usually break when something hard and solid is kicked with great force. Broken Heels are usually a result of falling from a great height and landing on the feet. Other broken bones in the feet can occur because of a twisted or sprained ankle. Most of the time, a broken foot results from a sudden accident or injury. Sometimes small cracks can form over time in the bones of the feet from repeated stress. These cracks are called stress fractures and usually only occur in athletes that put a lot of pressure on their feet, like runners, dancers, and gymnasts.

Symptoms of a broken foot typically include pain, swelling, bruising, and redness. Occasionally the pain of a broken foot may be so severe that walking is not an option. However, this depends on the location of the broken bone within the foot. Broken toes are usually less painful than broken heels or other bones within the foot. A foot that is blue, numb, cold, misshapen, cut or deformed can occur in more serious cases of broken feet. Those who are experiencing any of these symptoms, or suspect that they have a broken foot, should seek medical attention in a center where x-rays can be performed. 

Prior to seeking the attention of a doctor, several steps can be taken at home in order to reduce pain and swelling. Stabilization and elevation of the broken foot should be the number one priority. It is important not to move the foot, so any type of homemade splint will work well. However, any splint that causes the foot to become more painful, or cut off blood circulation should be removed. Ice can also decrease swelling and alleviate some of the pain that a broken foot can cause.

In a medical center, treatment for a broken bone will differ depending on which bone in the foot is fractured and depending on what caused the break. Some broken feet will require the patient to use crutches, while others will require splits or casts. More severe cases may require surgery on the foot to repair the broken bone or bones.

Thursday, 08 August 2013 15:07

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.

Thursday, 01 August 2013 12:39

Flip-flops and Feet

Flip-flops are some of the most comfortable and convenient kinds of shoes there are. They let you freely move your toes, aren't constrictive, and allow your feet to breathe. They can also be worn with almost any attire, and match most clothing styles. Unfortunately, wearing flip-flops can also be very dangerous. These sorts of shoes can harm your feet in more ways than you may think.

Although they are comfortable, constant flip-flop use can lead to problems with the ankles, hips, and lower back if worn on a long-term basis. This is because people walk much differently in flip-flops than they do in other shoes like sneakers. Their natural gait is being forced to change, throwing the body off and causing stress to different parts of the body. Flip-flops can also lead to problems in the arches of your feet, and pain in the balls of your feet. There is little to no support provided by flip-flops, so some parts of the foot undergo much more stress than normal.

Flip-flops can cause more obvious short term problems as well, like ankle sprains and frequent blisters. Because these shoes are relatively weak and can easily bend while walking, wearers are far more likely to trip and hurt their ankles. Flip-flops can also cause bad blisters, because their straps are constantly rubbing up against the foot. Additionally, someone wearing flip-flops is more prone to infections, due to the openness of the shoe. It very easy to scrape and cut your foot when wearing flip-flops because they offer little protection for the foot. If left untreated and uncovered, these same cuts can get dirtied and infected as flip-flops wearers walk around.

In order to avoid this, make sure to get a pair of flip-flops that will keep your feet as safe as possible. When looking to purchase flip-flops, you should check that the actual sole is sturdy and firm. The flip-flops are too floppy if the sole droops and wiggles a great deal when lifted off the floor. These will offer very little support, and may lead to other problems like tripping.

If you only purchase flip-flops made of high quality, sturdy materials, you won't have to worry about this. Although they will cost a little more, flip-flops made of these materials will last longer, and will protect your feet more so than a cheap pair of flip-flops. Also, make sure to buy from a reliable brand name. You can often find relatively cheap shoes from these companies, and once you have bought them you know they will last.

You can still wear your favorite flip-flops, just avoid wearing them every day of the week, or for extended periods of time. It is also recommended that you replace flip-flops every three or four months, in order to be sure that they provide maximum protection to your feet.

Thursday, 11 July 2013 13:30

Exercise for Your Feet

Whether your feet are over-worked or under-worked, chances are they could benefit from some special attention. Even those who exercise regularly probably do not spend any time strengthening their feet. This can be just as rewarding as strengthening the rest of the body, since the health of your feet affects the health of the rest of the body as well, especially the ankles, legs, and spine.

For those who might not have any idea on how a foot-specific exercise might be conducted, there are several workouts that are fairly easy to perform in the comfort of ones’ home. One of the easiest is the toe rise, also known as the tip-toe. This exercise involves standing on the tip-toes for a count of 15 then resting the feet on the ground. This process should be repeated a minimum of three times a day in order to strengthen the feet.

Toe pick-ups strengthen the feet by working them in a very different way. In this exercise, small items are picked up using the toes in order to strengthen the muscles on the upper part of the feet. Once again three sets should be performed, with the item in question being held for 15 seconds then dropped. Items that may be picked up using the feet include marbles and even stationery, which works wonders for the toes and the surrounding muscles.

Yet another simple workout is the ankle pump. This can be done either upwards or downwards, but for the workout to be most effective both can be incorporated into the routine. As the term suggests, this involves lifting the foot off the floor and flexing the toes either towards the shin or towards the ground. This movement puts the feet and ankles through a large range of motion which works muscles.

Last but not least, feet should be stretched so that the muscles can relax and recuperate. This can be done by placing both feet of the floor and bracing oneself against the wall at a 45 degree angle. This ensures that the feet and ankles are adequately stretched once the workout is complete.

In short, giving the feet a good workout every now and then is important in order to avoid problems such as plantar fasciitis, as well as to warm-up or cool-down after running or vigorous walking. Foot exercises may be followed by a good foot massage which encourages circulation in the feet as well as muscle relaxation.

Monday, 01 July 2013 10:29

Geriatrics and Podiatry

Bone density loss, dry skin, poor circulation, and rough brittle nails are some of the common problems that can occur as people age. The effect that these problems have on foot health should be of particular concern in comprehensive geriatric care.

Feet that are diseased or injured have a negative effect on overall health and safety. Painful feet limit a person’s willingness and ability to stay active. Poor foot health can also cause gait change, which can lead to falls and accidents. Even though recovery time from health problems naturally slows as we age, many foot problems can be avoided altogether with regular prophylactic care.

Each day feet should be thoroughly washed in warm water. Care must be taken to dry the feet well, making sure to dry between and under the toes. Any left-over moisture can cause problems like foot fungus. After cleaning feet carefully check for problems such as cracked skin, bruises, swelling, cuts, corns, or other irregularities.

Examine toenails for ingrown, jagged, or split nails. Long toenails should be cut straight across. Never cut toenails at an angle or down the side as this may lead to ingrown nails.

Cracked and dry feet should be treated once or twice a day with a non-greasy moisturizer. Rub the moisturizer into the skin and allow it to dry before putting on socks and shoes. Sweaty feet can be dusted with a small amount of talcum powder. Avoid putting talcum directly into shoes as this may make feet slip within the shoe and cause a serious fall.

Wear clean dry socks each day. Not only do clean socks feel better on the feet, but socks worn for longer periods may harbor disease and odor-causing bacteria. Socks should not be so tight around the top as to leave marks on the leg. Socks that are too small can bring about bruising caused by pressure against the toes.

Wear comfortable and well-fitting shoes. If possible, use a professional footwear specialist when purchasing shoes. Do not walk around barefoot as this exposes the feet to possible injury and bacteria.

Good foot health allows a more active lifestyle, which improves blood flow. Good circulation aids in recovery from injury or illness, and is paramount to good overall health.

Serious health problems can manifest themselves as symptoms in the feet. The elderly should seek professional help from a podiatrist if experiencing foot problems like tingling, numbness, pain, infection, or a sore that does not heal. Taking care of these problems right away can avoid worse problems later on.

Thursday, 27 June 2013 17:43

Athlete’s Foot

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 athletes foot is known as tinea pedis and thrives in moist, dark areas such as shower floors, gyms, sock and shoes, commons areas, public changing areas, bathrooms, dormitory style houses, locker rooms, and public swimming pools. Athletes 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, thrive, and spread, this is the most commonly affected area, but it is known to grow in other places. However, for obvious reasons, the term athletes foot describes tinea that grows strictly on the feet.

The most commonly infected body parts are the hands, groin, and scalp, as well as obviously the feet. Around 70% of the population suffer from tinea infections at some point in their lives, however not all of these cases are athletes 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. On top of this, 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 athletes 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 athletes foot it causes, the best way to treat this condition is with prevention. While it is hard to completely avoid, 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, as these are not desirable conditions for tinea to grow. If you do happen to get athletes foot, treating it with miconazole, tolnaftate, or other medicated creams, ointments or sprays will not only help eliminate it but also prevent it from coming back.

Thursday, 20 June 2013 11:42

Foot Surgery and Related Techniques

Normally, foot surgery is reserved for cases, which other treatments have failed to succeed. Surgery may be necessary for many reasons. Surgery may be necessary in the following cases, but are not limited to: removing foot deformities (such as bone spurs or bunions), arthritis problems, reconstruction due to injury, and congenital malformations (such as club foot and flat feet). Among all ages and races, foot surgery may be necessary.

Depending on what is wrong with your foot, this will dictate what type of surgery is necessary. A bunionectomy is necessary if you have a growth, such as a bunion. Surgical fusion of the foot is recommended if your bones need to be realigned, or fused together. If you are enduring nerve issues or pain, you may need surgery in which the tissues surrounding the painful nerve are removed. Normally, less invasive treatments are tried first, but surgery is considered if all else fails.

Though surgery is seen as a last resort in many cases, there are benefits of surgery to fix your problem, if you and your doctor choose that route. The first benefit is that the pain associated with your problem is normally relieved; therefore meaning you can resume your daily activities normally. The second benefit is once you have surgery the problem is generally eliminated.

Podiatry history has shown that foot techniques continue to grow every year. In the field of foot surgery, endoscopic surgery is just one of the many advancements. Foot techniques will continue to improve, as technology does. Many procedures require small incisions, and use better, more efficient tools. Because of this, surgery is no longer as invasive as it used to be, and recovery has become easier and faster. Therefore, you will be back on your feet in no time.

Thursday, 13 June 2013 19:29

Working on Your Feet

When your feet are overworked your whole body can be affected. Thus, taking care of your feet is a must for overall good health. Standing on the feet all day can cause bunions, callouses and plantar warts. These are all very painful conditions that can be avoided with proper foot care. Good shoe choices and proper posture both contribute to the health of your feet.

Always choose a negative heeled shoe that places the heel slightly lower than the ball of the foot. Shoes designed in this fashion are the best for foot health. And most definitely purchase your shoes from a reputable manufacturer who puts foot health at the forefront of their goals. Having a job that keeps you on your feet all day makes it an especially a good idea to spend the extra money on a good pair of shoes.

The feet were not designed to be enclosed for hours on end. In fact, incorporating some "barefoot" time into your daily routine is not a bad idea to improve overall foot health. There are some other simple things that you can do to help alleviate pain and pressure on the feet from standing all day.

First of all, you can perform some simple foot exercises and even some common yoga moves to improve the function of your feet. A foot work out that incorporates mechanically correct movements will stimulate the blood flow and the muscles of the foot. Also, yoga exercises that stretch the foot out flat on the floor are very beneficial for those who work on their feet, and can help stretch and relax the calf muscles and Achilles tendon. These exercises may be performed every day during your daily routine, perhaps even while you are sitting in your vehicle or standing in line at the grocery store.

If you spend a lot of time on your feet every day, you know what it can be like to have foot pain, and you may begin to think that foot pain is inevitable. It doesn't have to be. Foot stretches and proper footwear can do miracles in alleviating foot pain and preventing further foot problems.

With just a little effort and some education on the proper foot exercises, you can keep your feet healthy and feeling good for years to come. If your feet hurt your whole body will feel the effects over time. Start taking better care of your feet today. They will love you for it!

Stress fractures in the foot and ankle happen when muscles become weak due to too much or too little use. Stress fractures cause the muscles to stop cushioning the foot and ankles from the impact of hitting the ground. Since there is nothing to protect the bones of the foot, they absorb the full impact of each step you take. This additional stress causes little cracks, or stress fractures, to form in the bones that are being pressured.

Stress fractures are common in highly active people, especially athletes. Basketball, tennis or and gymnastics are activities where stress fractures occur more frequently. However, anyone can receive a stress fracture. Normally sedentary individuals who suddenly begin an intensive high impact work out may incur a stress fracture. This is because their muscles are not resistant enough to handle and cushion the intensity of the activity. Osteoporosis patients may also suffer stress fractures because the disease weakens the victim’s bones, making it easier for them to wear and tear.

Pain from stress fractures occurs in the site area of the fracture. It may be either constant or intermittent, causing sharp or dull pain accompanied by swelling and/or tenderness. Engagement in any kind of high impact activity will only exacerbate the pain. In fact, it can even cause a full fracture, especially when the area is not fully healed. Full fractures are much more serious, and can prevent you from using your foot at all.

Treatment varies depending on the patient and the degree of his or her injury. The most important treatment is to rest the injured foot. Some fractures may heal quicker with brief rest, while others need a longer rest period and utilizing crutches. In some cases surgery is required to install support pins around the fracture to aid healing.

To prevent stress fractures, be sure to get plenty of Calcium and Vitamin-D in your diet. This helps keep your bones strong and fortifies their resistance. If you begin a new regimen that involves high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up the proper muscular strength. For example, if you wish to walk every day, you could ride a bike on some of those days to take stress off your feet. Also, make sure to wear supportive shoes that provide adequate protection.

If you experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If these symptoms do not go relieve themselves, consult with an orthopedic specialist. Taking these measures can help prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue the activities  you enjoy.

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