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Wednesday, 05 December 2012 03:00

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.

Monday, 12 November 2012 10:31

Barefoot Running

A new trend in running and jogging has popped up recently, called barefoot running. Barefoot running is a popular and growing trend that is just what it sounds – running without shoes. Before deciding to do any running without shoes, it's best to understand how this kind of running affects the feet.

Running without shoes changes the motion of running. Most running is done by landing on the heel of the feet. Running barefoot requires a different way of running; in a barefoot stride landing is done on the front part of the feet. Because of this, the impact shifts from the heels to the front feet. Runners also shorten their strides to create a softer landing.

Running barefoot does have its advantages. When running and landing on the front feet, the impact on the feet and ankle is reduced, which may reduce the incidence of stress injuries. It strengthens muscles in the feet, and also strengthens muscles in the ankles and lower legs that aren't usually worked. Overall balance of the body is improved and there is greater sensory input from the feet to the rest of the body, making overall position and motion less stressful on the body. It has been found that in countries in which some of the population regularly wear shoes and some do not, numbers of foot and ankle injuries are much higher in those who wear shoes.

People hearing about barefoot running for the first time are skeptical about it, and there are good reasons for skepticism. Running barefoot certainly has its drawbacks, the obvious being no protection of the feet when running. This makes it likely that when runners land on sharp or rough objects, scrapes, bruises, and cuts on feet will result. Blisters will form when beginning this kind of running especially, you may have plantar fascia problems. Landing on the front feet constantly also increases the risk of getting Achilles tendonitis.

So what can runners do to make barefoot running safe? It’s best to make a slow transition from running shoes to barefoot running. The body is used to wearing shoes so to slowly transition to bare feet, start by walking barefoot for a distance and then increase walking distance. Once the feet begin to adjust, try walking and then jogging and gradually increase the distance. If you have foot problems talk to the doctor first before attempting barefoot running. When starting out, it may also be helpful to begin by running on pavement or other consistent surfaces to avoid sharp or rough objects. Minimalist running shoes may also be an option, as they allow for many of the benefits of barefoot running while also protecting the feet from cuts and scrapes.

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is often caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is usually the result of a build up of plaque in the arteries. Plaque build up, or atherosclerosis, can be the result of excess calcium and cholesterol in the bloodstream, which 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, causing degeneration in the muscles and other tissues. Sometimes, poor blood circulation in the feet and legs can be caused by other conditions, such as damage to 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 (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 (which 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.

Sunday, 28 October 2012 17:20

Sesamoiditis

Sesamoiditis is a condition that affects the joint that is just behind the big toe in the area known as the ball of the foot. It is most common in younger people and people who have just begun an exercise program. Since the sesamoid bones are like a pulley controlling the big toe, they can rub against each other and cause a gradual onset of pain. Pain may also be caused by the inflammation of tendons surrounding the bones. If ignored, sesamoiditis can lead to other, more serious problems such as severe irritation and fractures of the bones.

The cause of sesamoiditis is sudden increase in activity. The ball of your foot acts as a springboard to help you lift off when you are jogging or running. Sudden increase in the use of these bones or the tendon that controls them can cause irritation. The tendon then begins to develop inflammation and the joint begins to swell. People with smaller, bonier feet or those with a high arch are typically more susceptible to this condition.

Sesamoiditis is fairly simple to diagnose since the symptoms have a gradual onset rather than a sudden impact. The symptoms begin with slight irritation around the joint shortly after the increase in activity. The discomfort eventually turns to pain with light swelling and possibly redness. Although redness or bruising are rare, this may be a symptom. After each session of exercising, the aggravated joint becomes more irritated and increases into a very intense throbbing.

Treatment for sesamoiditis can vary depending on the severity of the situation. However, treatment is almost always approached in a noninvasive way. For a case that is just beginning the doctor may recommend a very strict rest period that will limit the activity allowed on the joint. If you must be active, a recommendation for as modified shoe or insole, along with bandaging and immobilizing the big toe will be made to ensure that pressure is not placed on the joint. For severe cases, it is typically recommended that the joint and the big toe be completely immobilized to allow adequate time to heal. Ice and an over the counter anti-inflammatory may can help with the pain and discomfort while you are at rest.

When you return to your regular exercise activities, it is recommended that you use an insole that will allow even distribution of impact to your entire foot, rather than just the balls of your foot. This will prevent further aggravation of the injury.

Thursday, 25 October 2012 04:18

The Importance of Proper Foot Support

Feet are the foundation of the body, and just like the foundation of any structure, they must be stable and balanced in order to support the all of the body's weight. If they are not, they could cause many problems.

Bad foot support can cause pain or discomfort in the lower back, hips, knees, neck, and shoulder. It can lead to much less obvious problems as well, like stomach aches and headaches. Issues with the feet can lead to emotional stress and physiological changes in the body, including fatigue, blood sugar problems, and adrenal stress. In order to avoid these issues, you must be sure to wear shoes that provide proper foot support.

Of all the different parts of the foot, the arch is the one that needs the most support. This vital structure handles most of the pressure exerted during movement--for each mile someone walks, the arch bears between 200,000 and 300,000 pounds of stress. Arch height varies greatly from one person to another, and changes as a person ages. Proper support can prevent many musculoskeletal problems that may cause inactivity or even disability.

When searching for footwear, one must remember to buy shoes that fit well and that properly support the feet. Otherwise, you could suffer from a slew of foot-related problems. If, for example, you buy shoes that are too tight, you could hinder the support mechanism in the foot that keeps the body standing upright. If this mechanism is not working correctly, you will soon begin to slouch when standing. This quickly causes discomfort throughout the entire body, especially the back, and if it is not corrected it may cause permanent posture issues and bone deformation.

When shopping for shoes, only buy those that provide good heel and arch support. Both the heel and arch areas need to be firm, but still flexible enough for walking. Also make sure the shoes you intend to buy are the proper length and width for your feet. Your feet and toes should not feel squished or cramped in the shoe, or (if it is an open-toed shoe) be hanging over its sides. Additionally, if you are looking for a laced shoe, be sure to buy one that has many eyelets. Laces help the shoes form to the feet, and having many eyelets allows the laces to better conform to your foot. Also make sure that the laces are tied correctly, as laces that are not pulled tightly and tied do not provide proper support.

Good foot health is vital to overall body health. If you do not care for your feet properly, you could suffer many short and long-term problems that will negatively affect your entire body. Wearing shoes that provide good foot support is an easy way to avoid these problems, and live comfortably.

Thursday, 18 October 2012 10:11

Facts to Know About Achilles Tendon Injuries

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. Since this tendon provides an enormous amount of mobility to an individual, 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 and 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 or 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, as this will relieve pressure on the heels. As always, 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, because further damage could result in severe complications that would make being mobile difficult, if not impossible.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012 11:27

Effect of High-Heels on the Feet

Women have been wearing various kinds of high-heels for hundreds of years, mostly for aesthetic reasons. Shoes with heels make their wearer appear to be taller and to have longer and thinner legs, and change the wearer’s gait and posture. High-heels’ association with femininity have kept them popular over the years, but there are definite health problems caused by wearing high-heels too frequently.

High heels also limit the motion of the ankle joints as well when they are worn. The ankle is a very important joint in the body when it comes to walking. These joints have a great deal of weight put on them because of their location. This is why it is so important to keep them as healthy as possible. The main tendon in the ankle is the Achilles tendon. Studies have shown that wearing high heels often causes the calf muscle and Achilles tendon to shorten, and stiffens the Achilles tendon as well, which can cause problems when shoes without heels are worn.

By forcing the toes into a small toe box, and putting a great deal of pressure on the ball of the foot, high-heels can cause or worsen many foot problems, such as corns, hammertoe, bunions, Morton’s neuroma and plantar fasciitis.

Wearing high-heels regularly, especially very high ones, can have long term negative effects on many other parts of the body, as well as the feet. One of the most important joints in the entire body, the knees, can be affected by wearing high heels. Wearing high heels causes the knees to stay bent at all times. It also causes them to bend slightly inward as well. Many doctors believe that constantly walking like this is the reason that women are so much more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis later in life. High-heels also cause increased stress on the knees by limiting the natural motion of the foot during walking.

The back may also be negatively affected by high heels because this shoe style causes the back to go out of alignment. This affects the spine’s ability to absorb shock, and can cause continued pain in the back if high heels are worn constantly. High-heels also compress the vertebrae of the lower back, and can cause overuse of the muscles in the lower back.

This is not to say that high heels should never be worn. They will not cause serious problems if they are worn only occasionally. However, they should not be worn every day in order to avoid long term physical health problems to the feet, knees, ankles and back.

Wednesday, 03 October 2012 13:49

Arthritic Foot Care

In our lifetimes we walk 75,000 miles, putting a great deal of stress on the 26 bones and 30 joints in our feet. As we age, our feet lose flexibility and elasticity. Our shock absorbers weaken, and if you add arthritis to that combination, joints become inflamed and distorted. Arthritic foot care becomes imperative at this point.

Start taking better care of your feet by buying better fitting shoes. Hammertoes, neuroma, and bunions form when our shoes fit poorly. Buy shoes with a lower heel and with more room in the shoe. Rheumatoid arthritis will cause you to lose your arch. Buying shoes with arch support will help, as will buying shoes that contour to your foot.

Leave a fingers width between your foot and the shoe. If your finger cannot fit inside your shoe when it is on your foot, it is too tight. Buy rubber soled shoes. The cushioning of the rubber absorbs shock and the flexibility of the rubber helps the ball of the foot, where you push off from as you walk. Look for square or rounded toed shoes giving your toes lots of room to move.

Exercise will also help. Stretching the Achilles tendon, the cord at the back of the heel, will prevent further pain and injury. This will also increase your foots mobility. Lack of mobility will cause significant stress and pain. Massages will also alleviate some pain. Knead the ball of your foot and your toes from top to bottom.

To stretch your Achilles tendon, lean against a wall, with palms flat on the wall. Place one foot forward and one foot back with the heel flat on the floor, then lean forward. Feel the pull in the Achilles tendon and calf. Hold for five seconds and repeat three times. The big toe stretch is another exercise that may alleviate stiffness. Place one thick rubber band around your big toes. Pull the toes toward the other toes on the foot. Hold for five seconds and repeat ten times. Another exercise to try is the toe pull. Place a thick rubber band around the toes of each foot. Spread your toes for five seconds and repeat ten times.

Pain can be alleviated with non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drugs, heat, and ultrasounds. Topical medications with Capsaicin may also help. Thus far, there is no remedy for pain that is one hundred percent effective. Buying shoes that give your feet plenty room with low rubber heels and soles will help. If needed, use heat and anti-inflammatory drugs, and exercise your tendons and toes. Lastly, arthritic foot care should incorporate massages to help your feet with circulation and to relieve the stress locked up in your feet.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012 14:01

Diabetic Foot Care

Diabetes affects millions of people each year. Diabetes damages blood vessels in all parts of the body, including the feet. The legs and feet may have slow blood flow which causes neuropathy (nerve damage). Once a diabetic patient develops neuropathy, it is imperative that the feet are well taken care of to avoid amputation of the feet or legs.

It is important when caring for the feet of diabetics to always wash and thoroughly dry the feet, especially between the toes. Next, examine your feet and toes for any redness or sores that may be there, even if you do not feel any pain. You may also use a mirror to examine your feet from the bottom side. Avoid wearing colored socks to prevent infections that may occur from the dye used in them. Well-fitting socks are also highly recommended.

Anyone with diabetes should have their physicians to monitor Hemoglobin A1C levels as this test lets the physician know how well the blood sugar levels have been controlled during the past 3 months. It is very important to keep the blood sugar levels in the normal range (70-110mg/dl). There are medications that a physician may prescribe to help with neuropathy of the diabetic patient. It is also advisable to visit a podiatrist if the diabetic patient is experiencing any conditions involving the feet. Toe nails may need to be taken care of by a podiatrist as some patients may cut to deep or not deep enough around the cuticles and risk having an infection that could occur.

While at home a person can take care of their feet if they follow instructions given by their physician or nurse. An effective treatment is using creams and applying them to the heels due to the possibility of extreme dryness. Be careful when using tools to remove the calluses as severe diabetics may not be able to feel pain, and this can cause a severe wound to develop.

Diabetic feet absolutely need to be inspected on a daily basis. Always notify your health care professional with any concerns that you may have about the care of your feet. Waiting to see if a wound will get better is not a good idea as it can turn into a life threatening condition. Gangrene is a serious problem for diabetics and can lead to sepsis and amputation. Early treatment and daily inspection of the diabetic feet are keys to staying healthy.

One of the most common injuries that athletes suffer from is a sprained ankle, a very painful and frustrating problem. A sprained ankle usually causes one to avoid participating in sports, and once someone has sprained their ankle, they are very likely to sprain it again.

To get back into sports after a sprained ankle, one should follow the RICE method, which is consistently recommended by physical therapists and sports medicine doctors. The RICE method involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If one follows the RICE method soon after experiencing a sprained ankle, he or she will likely get back to the playing fields in no time. In addition to using the RICE method, an athlete should wear an ankle brace after experiencing a sprained ankle to help alleviate the pain and keep the ankle safe until it heels. A brace will also help to stabilize the ankle, and prevent serious injuries in the future. Many times, people suffer from sprained ankles due to weak ligaments near the ankle; because an ankle brace keeps the ligaments in the foot from moving too much, it will help someone avoid this injury.

Fractures in the foot and ankle are another common type of injury athletes suffer. Stress fractures typically occur in the bones of the forefoot. An athlete will usually experience stress fractures if he or she partakes in a sudden increase in athletic training. A stress fracture can be either stable or displaced. A stable stress fracture involves no shift in bone alignment, while a displaced stress fracture involves bone ends that no longer line up.

After an athlete has a stress fracture in the foot, he or she will immediately need to see a doctor. Rest is usually the key to treat this problem. One will have to refrain from any strenuous activities or the sports that caused the injury. A doctor or specialist may be able to pinpoint the specific part of an athlete's training that caused the stress fracture. If this is possible, then an athlete will not have to worry about refraining from his or her sport in the future; he or she will simply have to stop training in such a way that an ankle or foot injury results.

The key for any athlete is to care about the treatment process for an ankle or foot injury. Athletes need to rest and take time before hitting the fields. The more an athlete invests in the treatment and recovery process, the more likely he or she will be able to return back to normal athletic performance.

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