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Monday, 08 June 2015 14:33

Biomechanics in Podiatry

Biomechanics and its related study deal with forces that act against the body and effect things like our movement. In podiatry, biomechanics are studied to determine the movement of the ankle, toes, and the foot itself, 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 and limit the mobility everyone takes for granted. Pain in the feet and ankles can also trickle up towards the lower legs, knees, hip, and even back area, all effecting 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 claimed that changing or controlling the forces between the ankle and the foot, 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 thermoplastic 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 not only take readings, but 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 is 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, so speaking with your podiatrist if you have any of these problems is highly recommended.

Monday, 18 May 2015 14:24

Heel Pain

Heel pain is a stressful condition that effects day to day activities. Running and walking causes stress on the heel because the heel is the part of the foot that hits the ground first. This means that the heel is taking on your entire weight. Diagnosis and treatments for heel pain can be easily found through your podiatrist.

One of the main causes of heel pain is a condition known as plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that extends along the bottom of the foot, from the toe to the bottom of the heel. A rip or tear in this ligament can cause inflammation of these tissues, resulting in heel pain. People who do not wear proper fitting shoes are often at risk of developing problems such as plantar fasciitis. Unnecessary stress from ill fitting shoes, weight change, excessive running, and wearing non-supportive shoes on hard surfaces are all causes of plantar fasciitis.

Achilles tendonitis is another cause of heel pain. Similar to plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the Achilles tendon will cause heel pain due to stress fractures and muscle tearing. A lack of flexibility of the ankle and heel is an indicator of Achilles tendonitis. If left untreated, this condition can lead to plantar fasciitis and cause even more pain on your heel.

A third cause of heel pain is a heel spur. A heel spur occurs when the tissues of the plantar fascia undergo a great deal of stress, leading to a separation of the ligament from the heel bone entirely. This results in a pointed fragment of bone on the ball of the foot, known as a heel spur.

Treatments for heel pain are easy and effective as long as problems are addressed quickly. The most common solution is simply taking stress off the feet, particularly off of the heel. This will ease the pain and allow the tendons and ligaments to relax. In the case of both plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, icing will reduce swelling of any part of the foot and anti-inflammatory medication is highly recommended. Properly fitting your shoes and wearing heel pads or comfort insoles will also reduce the risk of developing heel pain. Stretching before and after exercises such as running will help the foot muscles prepare for stress and lower the chances of inflammatory pain. In extreme cases, relieving heel   pain might require surgery. Always make sure to discuss these symptoms and treatment options with your podiatrist to keep yourself active and pain free

Monday, 11 May 2015 13:56

What is a Podiatrist

The branch of medicine that is focused on the treatment, diagnosis, and study of disorders of the lower leg, ankle and foot is referred to as podiatry. Because people often spend a great deal of their time on their feet, many problems in this area can occur. A person seeks help from the field of podiatry when they need treatment for heel spurs, bunions, arch problems, deformities, ingrown toenails, corns, foot and ankle problems, infections, and problems with the foot that are related to diabetes and additional diseases.

To treat problems of the foot, ankle or lower leg, a podiatrist may prescribe physical therapy, drugs, perform surgery, or set fractures. Individuals may also be recommended to wear corrective shoe inserts, custom-made shoes, plaster casts and strappings in order to correct deformities.

When trying to gather information on a patient problem, a scanner or force plate may be used in order to design orthotics. During this procedure, patients are told to walk across a plate that is connected to a computer; the computer then takes a scan of the foot and indicates weight distribution and pressure points. The computer readouts will give the podiatrist information to help them determine the correct treatment plans.

Diagnosis is also provided through laboratory tests and x-rays. Through the foot, the first signs of serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis can show up. For example, individuals that have diabetes may frequently have problems such as infections and foot ulcers because they experience poor circulation in the foot area. A podiatrist can then have consultations with patients when symptoms arise and referrals will be made to specialists that handle the greater health problems. 

Some podiatrists have their own solo small private practices or clinics where they have a small staff and administrative personnel but many work within group practices. They usually spend time performing surgery in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals or visiting patients in nursing homes. They typically spend between 30 to 60 hours of week working. Some podiatrists specialize in public health, orthopedics, surgery, or primary care. Some other fields include specialties in geriatrics, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetic foot care and sports medicine.

Some podiatrist specialists complete extra training in the area of foot and ankle reconstruction that result from the effects of physical trauma or diabetes. There are also surgeons that perform surgery of a cosmetic nature to correct bunions and hammertoes. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014 19:42

What are 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, 18 December 2013 17:51

Foot Rehabilitation for Athletes

It is hard to think of a sport in which the ankle and foot are completely safe from injury. Even simple activities such as darts and pool can cause injuries to the foot. When an athlete does suffer from a foot injury, he needs to find a way to get back on his feet right away. Immediate results may be desired, but they are not always possible.

Severe injuries require special attention. When the foot or the ankle gets injured, muscles surrounding the bones can weaken or atrophy through disuse. While the bones will heal on their own, it takes a more concentrated effort for an athlete to regain full use of his feet and ankles. A doctor may recommend that a person go through a course of physical therapy. The course of physical therapy treatment uses simple, repetitive isometric exercises. The use of the exercises will cause the body to rebuild the muscles and tendons in the area over time and restore the full range of movement.

When selecting ankle and foot rehabilitation services, an athlete needs to find a licensed sports therapist (other physical therapists work with more generalized conditions, and while these kinds of physical therapists are dedicated to their job, they do not necessarily understand the special demands of the athlete). A good sports therapist will take their time with a patient, and make sure that he or she understands the problem and the options available for treatment.As long as the doctor expects a person to return to the sport which he enjoys, the sports physical therapist will recommend the exact exercises a person needs to get back in the game.

Although the professional athlete needs a trained sports therapist, an amateur athlete or the weekend player can benefit from foot rehabilitation services for athletes as well. An ankle or foot injury does not have to cause a person go give up the game he loves entirely, so long as he or she seeks out a sports therapist.

Physical therapy can not always perfectly heal certain injuries, but it will more quickly and effectively help the afflicted person get better.  Less severe injuries may only take a person out of his favorite sport just for a little while, if he or she sees a sports therapist. As long as the doctor the athlete sees thinks a full recovery is possible, it is worth it to check out ankle and foot rehabilitation services.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013 21:46

Stretching Your Feet

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 mend existing problems and prevent future ones.

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

Stretching may help relax the feet and alleviate pain at any time, but it is especially important before    heavy aerobic exercise to avoid painful cramps or straining muscles in the feet. Stretches should be performed slowly and deliberately without forceful pulling. The stretch should be held for several seconds, and then relaxed.

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, 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 the 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 regular stretching every day should be able to minimize foot pain and prevent new problems from arising.

Monday, 11 November 2013 17:10

How Obesity Affects Your Feet

Maybe you have gained a few extra pounds over the past couple of years. It comes on slowly and you are not always aware of it until your feet start hurting at the end of the day. After all, they carry the weight of your whole body. Experiencing foot pain and swelling is one of the biggest side effects of being overweight. Many problems that occur in the feet are directly related to carrying even a small amount of extra weight. If you are overweight, the body may try to compensate by changing the way it moves. You may lean forward a bit and put extra weight on the wrong part of the foot. Your feet were designed to carry a normal amount of body weight and any extra will put undue stress on them. Many people who are overweight as adults develop type 2 diabetes and it is often the cause of leg and foot pain. This is very serious and often older people who do not control their condition may lose all feeling in their legs and feet. It is also possible to develop small sores on the feet, and when you have diabetes, these do not always heal properly which can lead to serious infection. The extra pressure and stress placed on muscles, joints, and tendons in the feet by extra body weight can also trigger plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the foot, and causes pain and stiffness when walking and climbing stairs. Pain caused by plantar fasciitis can be relieved by foot stretches and orthotics inserted into the shoe. Foot problems triggered by excess body weight may be treated by special attention to footwear. Shoes that properly support the foot – especially the arch and ankle – and allow for good circulation are very important. A podiatrist can help you decide what kind of shoe is best for your feet. Orthotics – special inserts that can be inserted into shoes – can absorb shock, support the arches, and keep the feet properly aligned. These can be found in shoe stores or may be fitted by a podiatrist. It may also be time to consider taking off a few pounds to prevent diabetes and other life threatening diseases. Your feet will certainly thank you for it and you will feel better in a short amount of time. A water aerobics class at a local gym is a way to get needed exercise without putting any stress on the feet or ankles. Yoga is also an activity that is beneficial both to your feet and your entire body. Don't risk losing your freedom by ignoring foot pain. If you take care of your feet, you can keep your feet and your entire body feeling great.

A new treatment option which combines ultrasound waves and steroid injections was found to be 95% effective in patients suffering from plantar fasciitis, according to a groundbreaking study from the University of Genoa in Italy.

The plantar fascia is a connective tissue in the heel that stretches the bottom length of your foot. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of this connective band, causing heel pain and overall discomfort while walking or standing. Although the condition is completely treatable, traditional methods can take up to a year to start being effective.

These conventional treatments include arch support, night splints, certain exercises, and overall rest and staying off your feet.  The previous effective method for curing plantar fasciitis was shockwave therapy, in which sound waves are directed to the area where the pain is being experienced, often the heel. Despite the success of shockwave therapy, it could be considered somewhat painful, requires several sessions before any results are noticed, and is comparably expensive. However, even shockwave therapy does not cure the pain caused by plantar fasciitis in every patient.

The study, conducted by Luca M. Sconfienza, M.D., examined the effects of a new technique that combined ultrasound-guided methods, similar to shockwave therapy, with a steroid injection directly the plantar fascia. Because of the added steroid injection, the method becomes a one-time outpatient procedure involving a small amount of local anesthesia, in which a needle punctures the affected area and causes a small amount of bleeding that aids in the heeling of the fascia. This technique is referred to as dry-needling.

Dr. Sconfienza determined that 42 of the 44 patients involved in the new procedure had their symptoms, including pain, disappear entirely within three weeks. “This therapy is quicker, easier, less painful, and less expensive than shockwave therapy,” Dr. Sconfienza stated. “In cases of mild plantar fasciitis, patients should first try non-invasive solutions before any other treatments. But when pain becomes annoying and affects the activities of daily living, dry-needling with steroid injection is a viable option.”

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.

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