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Friday, 03 May 2013 15:59

Keeping Children's Feet Healthy

As a parent, your most important job is taking care of your children in every possible way. You watch what they eat, you protect them from harm, but it is important to be proactive in taking care of their health, especially when it comes to their feet. Having healthy, well taken care of feet in childhood is crucial in helping eliminate problems later in life, especially in the back and legs. As children grow, their feet require different types of care. Here are some ways you can help keep your children's feet healthy, from birth to school age.

Babies require a lot of care in general, but don't forget their feet. Since babies don't walk yet, their feet can be easy to overlook, but it is still important to take care of them. In the first year of life a baby's feet grow and change very much, so it is important that you do not put any tight shoes or socks on your baby's feet. Let your baby stretch and kick her feet so he or she can feel comfortable.

When a baby turns into a toddler, they are now on the move and it is important that your toddler has comfortable and protective shoes to walk in. Now is the time you may notice different things about your child's feet, but know that children at this age are just getting the feel for walking, so don't be alarmed if they seem to walk funny. It is normal for a toddler to be unsteady on their feet.

When your child gets older and leaves the toddler stage behind, it is now important that you teach them how to take care of their own feet. Show them proper cleaning and hygiene so that their feet do not develop fungus or infection. Since children are constantly running and playing, it is also important to watch out for injury or pain. Children are still growing, and certain injuries can effect the bones growth and development so it is vital to have all injuries checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Comfortable shoes that cushion the foot and provide protection from hours of rough play are highly recommended.

Children and babies are constantly growing and developing, and it is your job as a parent to make sure that nothing is hindering their ability to mature at a normal rate. This includes properly taking care of the feet, as healthy feet are important in order to live a normal, fulfilling life.

Thursday, 18 April 2013 14:08

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.

Thursday, 28 March 2013 14:01

Biomechanics in Podiatry

Podiatric biomechanics is a particular sector of specialty podiatry with licensed practitioners who are trained to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and lower leg. Biomechanics deals with the forces that act against the body causing an interference with the biological structure and focuses on the movement of the ankle, the foot and the forces that interact with them.

At some time in our lives we will all experience foot problems, regardless of our lifestyle or age, and we all take our mobility for granted until we are in pain. Twists or turns can cause problems and apply stress to the feet, and that pain will spread from the foot structure to the surrounding tissues. The pain will concentrate in the foot and ankle, but may eventually spread up into the knees, hips and back.

The history of biomechanics dates back to the BC era in Egypt where evidence of professional foot care has been recorded. Afterwards, during the first century AD, corns on feet were recorded as specifically growing on feet and toes. In 1974 biomechanics gained a higher profile from the studies of Merton Root, who claimed that by changing or controlling the forces between the ankle and the foot, corrections of conditions could be implemented to gain strength and coordination to the area. His basic principles of thermoplastic foot orthotics are still in use throughout the industry today.

Modern technology improvements are based on past theories and therapeutic processes providing a better understanding of podiatry concepts for biomechanics. Computers provide accurate determinations about the forces, movements and patterns of the foot and lower legs with the most important information captured. Today’s knowledge of detailed measurement of external and internal forces in the foot is critical to the individual’s treatment. Like most health industries, precise determinations assist the practitioner in diagnosing and prescribing the best treatment for health improving results.

Advances in materials and more awareness of biomechanics have developed enhanced corrective methods, offering further options for foot-related injuries. Shoe orthotics options have expanded to treat walking inability, helping to realign the posture deviations caused by hip or back health occurrences. Attention to posture and foot mechanics uses individual insoles to position the foot, aligning the ankle and leg. The corrected positioning comforts the pressure and helps to ease the pain. Understanding foot biomechanics can help improve and eliminate pain, stopping further stress to the foot. However, these results can only happen if one seeks a podiatrist who specializes in biomechanics.

Friday, 15 March 2013 05:52

Blisters on the Feet

If you have ever worn a pair of shoes that were two tight or just rubbed you in the wrong place, then chances are that you have experienced the pain of having a blister formed. To better understand how blisters form, what treatment we should apply for blisters, and how we can avoid having them form, we should learn more about what blisters are.

A blister on the foot is basically a small pocket that is fluid filled. This pocket typically forms on the upper layers of skin, because those layers are so thin. The majority of the time, blisters are filled with clear fluid; however, sometimes the blisters may be filled with blood and even pus if they have become infected due to bacteria entering the blister pocket.

Blisters on the feet are almost always a result of a shoe rubbing the foot constantly which results in what is termed a friction blister. These blisters occur after you have walked for very long periods of time or when you wear a pair of shoes that do not fit your feet properly. Blisters also form more easily if your feet are moist.

If you experience the displeasure of having a blister form on your foot, then proper treatment is an absolute must to alleviate pain and to prevent infection. In general the best treatment for blisters that are full of clear fluid is to just leave them alone. Your body will form new skin under the blister and then when the time is right your body will allow the blister to pop. If you try to lance the blister you may introduce bacteria in it that will lead to an infection. If the blister is painful, then you can use a band-aid over it to provide some cushioning which should relieve pain.

If the blister is filled with blood or pus, then the best treatment is to seek out the attention of a doctor. These blisters may need to be further evaluated and you may be given antibiotics to destroy any infection that you may have.

Preventing blisters on the feet is the best way to prevent any pain or infection that could occur. You can prevent blisters by keeping your feet dry and by making sure that you wear a proper pair of shoes that fit your feet well, without being too tight or too loose. If you do feel a place on your foot where your shoe is rubbing, then applying a band-aid to that spot may prevent a blister from forming until you can change them.

Monday, 18 February 2013 01:05

Nerve Disorders of the Foot and Ankle

Similar to well known nerve disorders in the hands, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve disorders that affect the foot and ankle occur in patients for reasons ranging from stress to genetics. Nerve disorders of the foot should be addressed right away because they may be immobilizing in serious cases. Two of the most common nerve disorders of the foot and ankle are Interdigital Neuroma and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.

Interdigital Neuroma is caused by localized inflammation of one of the nerves that controls toe sensitivity in the frontal area of the foot. This inflammation is generally only found in the second or third interspace, and any other symptoms similar to Neuroma on other digits should be checked against other disorders. Symptoms include chronic burning or tingling sensations between the affected toes which can, at times, migrate to the toes themselves. This pain is often increased by walking, running, or by wearing shoes that compress the toes, such as high heels. A doctor should be consulted if this pain is chronic and if the symptoms get worse.

Typical examinations to determine the presence of Neuroma include radiographs, MRIs, and even bone scans of the affected area. Bone scans are only required if degeneration of bone is suspected, however. Surgery is often not required to alleviate the symptoms of Neuroma, and in many cases functional orthotics can be used to alleviate the stress of constant weight on the affected toes. Surgery is recommended for those patients that suffer from symptoms for 6 months or more, so reporting symptoms early can increase the rate of non-surgical recovery.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, a condition that is less common than Interdigital Neuroma, is similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in that it is caused by a compression of the nerve caused by any number of factors (mostly associated with excess pronation). Typically seen in those that have either flatfeet or valgus heel positions, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome has patients complaining of moderate to severe ankle pain that starts along the bottom of the foot and often proceeds to the calf. Some more extreme cases occur with partial numbness and even atrophy of the foot and surrounding muscles.

If there is a good chance that someone has Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, an EMG test is often used to diagnose the condition.  If the diagnosis is positive, an MRI can be used to identify the compression of the nerve. Treatment with NSAIDS, functional orthotics, and rest off of the feet is often prescribed, but again, long standing symptoms require surgery, as do exacerbated symptoms caused by lesions present between nerves.

Thursday, 07 February 2013 15:12

Sever's Disease

Sever's disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a medical condition that causes heel pain in one or both feet of children during the period when their feet are growing. Sever's disease occurs most commonly in boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 14 years of age.

Sever's disease occurs when the part of the child's heel known as the growth plate, or the calcaneal epiphysis, an area attached to the Achilles tendon, suffers an injury 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, forcing the child to bear weight on their toes while walking. A toe gait develops in which the child must change the way they walk to avoid placing weight on the painful heel, a position that can lead to other 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 very active athletes are among the group most susceptible to experiencing Sever's disease because of the extreme stress and tension they place on their growing feet. Improper pronation, the rolling movement of the foot during walking or running, and obesity are all 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 sports activity which only worsens the problem. Over the counter pain medications targeted at relieving inflammation can be helpful for reducing the amount of heel pain. Combined with rest and pain medication, a child with Sever's disease should 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 just one heel of either foot as well as the heels of both feet. It is important to have a child experiencing heel pain get an examination by a foot doctor who can apply the squeeze test, which 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 to stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever's disease. An exercise known as foot curling, in which the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body in order to help stretch the muscles, has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever's disease. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions, and repeated several times throughout the day.

Treatment methods should usually continue for at least 2 weeks and as long as 2 months before the heel pain goes completely away and the child can resume normal physical and athletic activities again. A child can continue doing daily stretching exercises for the legs and feet to prevent the heel pain of Sever's disease from returning.

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

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

Another thing about walking shoes is that your heel hits the ground first, therefore it absorbs most of the shock. This is why walking shoes need to have a beveled or angled heel. The angle of the heel helps to absorb some of the shock instead of putting all of the pressure on the ankles. This is especially important for speed walkers as their feet will hit the ground twice as often as the normal walker.

When people decide to run as a hobby or for their health, they must first realize that running is a high impact exercise that if not done with the proper equipment, could cause damage to their feet and legs. Running shoes are designed to be more light weight and to have thicker soles. The thicker soles act as shock absorbers for the rest of the body. For this reason alone it is never recommended that a person wear walking shoe to run in. However, it's fine if you want to walk in running shoes. Walking shoes most often do not have the proper arch support that runners do.

One very important thing to remember is that a proper fit can make or break a runner or a walker. If a runner or walker’s shoes are too big, their feet will slide back and forth inside the shoe and cause blisters. What ever your sport, running or walking, the right equipment can make all of the difference in the world.

About the Author: Dr. Howard Hyman from The Podiatry Center is a board certified podiatric surgeon who has over 30 years of experience. With help from his reliable and personable staff, Dr. Howard Hyman treats a wide range of podiatric needs from athlete's foot to broken ankles and everything in between. Visit http://www.thepodiatrycenter.net/ or call 973-313-5592

Wednesday, 16 January 2013 07:31

Orthoses

Orthoses are devices used to correct physical impairment caused by scoliosis, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, or foot deformities. Orthopedic devices control, guide, limit or immobilize body segments. They assist in movement; reduce weight bearing forces and aid in rehabilitation from fractures. They also correct the shape and function of the body.

Orthoses include ankle foot orthosis, thoracolumbosacral orthosis, knee orthosis and wrist hand orthosis. When orthoses were first made, plaster of Paris molds were made of the patient and then materials like plastic, elastic, metal or a combination of those materials. Now braces for participants in contact sports are made from neoprene to allow movement but reduce the range of movement.

The Boston Brace is used to assist scoliosis sufferers. It is also called a low-profile or underarm brace. It fits under the breast to above the pelvic area in the front and below the shoulder blades to the tail bone in the back. By applying three point of pressure to the curve, the lumbar area is forced to flex, the abdomen is pushed in and the posterior is flattened.

The Charleston Bending Brace is only worn at night. A mold is made of the patient’s body bent towards the outward bulge of the curve. The design of the brace is built to correct the curve of the scoliosis. Repeatedly wearing this brace for eight hours should eventually correct the problem somewhat if not completely. The brace is good for patients with a curve of 20 to 36 degrees.

The Milwaukee Brace is used for mid-back curves. This brace consists of a plastic pelvic girdle and a neck ring. The pieces are connected in the front and back by metal bars. Pressure pads are place along the patient’s curve pattern along the metal bars. This brace is rarely used but patients with a curve very high in the spine can benefit from wearing it.

A knee orthosis is a brace worn to give the knee strength. Osteoarthritis can cause significant pain in the knee resulting in immobility. Knee braces allow a person to remain active. Often therapy and drugs are used in conjunction with a knee brace.

Orthoses have changed over the decades. The materials used for the actual orthotic devices have evolved to include hydraulics as it appears in some knee braces that the patient adjusts to compensate for stability. When this is adjusted, it helps the knee by giving the sense of space between the bones which stops the pain that radiates when the bones rub together. Orthoses products stop pain and give patients the ability to move pain free.

Monday, 07 January 2013 01:33

Bunions

The term bunion refers to an enlargement of the base joint of the toe, the connection to the foot. This enlargement may be formed of swollen tissue or a bony growth, and is caused by the shifting of the bones in the big toe inward, toward the other toes of the foot. The area around the base of the big toe may become inflamed, red, and painful.

Genetic factors are important in the formation of bunions – people who get bunions are usually genetically predisposed to this bone displacement, and may cause its onset by wearing improperly fitting shoes, or by running or walking in a way that causes stress to the feet. Another common cause for bunions is wearing high heeled shoes. The weight of the body in these shoes pushes the toes into an unnatural position, possibly causing bone displacement.

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

Wearing wider shoes can remove the pressure on the bunion and reduce pain. High heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time as this type of shoe generally pushes the big toe outward toward the smaller toes. This may be enough to eliminate the pain associated with bunions; however, if pain persists, anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. Severe pain may require an injection of steroids near the bunion. Orthotics for shoes may be prescribed which, by altering the pressure on the foot, can be helpful in reducing pain. These do not correct the problem, but by eliminating the pain, they can provide relief.

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

Thursday, 27 December 2012 17:07

Morton's Neuroma

Morton's neuroma is a painful foot condition that commonly affects the areas between the third and fourth toe and the ball of the foot. Other areas of the foot can also be susceptible to this condition. Morton’s neuroma is caused by an inflamed nerve in the foot that is being squeezed and aggravated by surrounding bones. Women are more likely than men to have an occurrence of this foot condition. When a person has Morton's neuroma, it can feel as if they are walking on stones or marbles.

There are risk factors that can increase a person's chance of having Morton's neuroma. Ill-fitting high heels or shoes can add pressure to the toe or foot area. Jogging, running and any other sports that involve constant impact to the foot area can make a person more susceptible to this condition. If a person has flat feet, bunions or any other foot deformities, it can put them at a higher risk for developing Morton's neuroma.

There is no one major sign that indicates a person has Morton's neuroma, but rather certain symptoms to look for. A person who has burning in the ball of the foot or tingling and numbness in the toe areas are signs they may have Morton's neuroma. The pain increases greatly when wearing shoes or being active. There usually is little or no pain at night.

If a person suspects that they have this condition, they should visit their doctor. A physician will check for palpable masses between the bones of the foot. A doctor will also apply pressure to the foot or toe area to replicate the pain a person experiences when active. Range of motion tests and X-rays are other options a doctor may offer a patient to rule out other conditions or problems.

Treating Morton's neuroma can be as simple as changing the type of shoes a person wears. Wear wider shoes or flat shoes with a soft sole. Doing this may help reduce the pressure on the nerve that is aggravated. If necessary, a person can have a cortisone injection to help reduce swelling and pain in the foot area. If these methods don't relieve the symptoms, consulting with an orthopedic surgeon should be the next option. During a consultation, a patient will find out about the treatment methods available for Morton's neuroma. A surgeon can release the tissue around the nerve that is causing this pain, or they can remove a small area of the nerve completely. There is a short recovery time for this type of surgery, and afterward, patients can return to their normal lifestyle.

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