February Articles 2016
Dealing with Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle
Stress fractures are small breaks in the bone that are caused by repetitive stress. They typically occur due to overuse, forcing the bones of the foot or ankle to continually absorb the full impact of each step someone takes. Stress fractures can also be caused by abnormal foot structure, osteoporosis, bone deformities, or wearing improper footwear during exercise.
Stress fractures are common for individuals whose daily activities cause high levels of impact on their feet and ankles. Individuals who run, play tennis or basketball, or practice gymnastics tend to experience these fractures more frequently. Anyone is susceptible to this problem, though. Individuals who are normally sedentary and suddenly begin an intense, high impact workout may sustain stress fractures. This is because their muscles are not yet strong enough to handle and cushion the intensity of their activity. Osteoporosis may also cause someone to get stress fractures, because the disease weakens an afflicted person's bones and makes it easier for them to break down.
Pain from stress fractures typically occurs in the general area of the fracture. Pain can also manifest as “pinpoint pain” or pain that is felt when the site of the injury is touched, and can be accompanied by swelling. It may occur during or after activity, and it may disappear while resting and return when standing or moving. Engaging in any kind of activity, high impact or otherwise, will aggravate the pain. If the intensity of the activity increases before the stress fracture has properly healed, it can cause a full fracture.
Treatment can vary depending on the individual and the degree of injury. The primary way to treat a stress fracture is to rest the hurt foot. Some fractures will heal quickly with only a little bit of rest, while others may require a long rest period and the use of crutches, immobilization, or physical therapy. Under certain circumstances, surgery may be required to install support pins around the fracture to assist in healing.
If you are undergoing a new exercise regimen in running or some other kind of high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up muscle strength. Make sure to wear supportive shoes to better protect you feet.
If you begin to experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If the symptoms persist, consult with your podiatrist. Remembering these tips can help you prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue living normally.
Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s particular gait or the manner in which they walk, or shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity. Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.
Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.
Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.
For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.
If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.
Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.
Heel pain is a stressful condition that affects day to day activities. Running and walking both 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.
All About Hallux Limitus
Hallux limitus is a medical condition which means “stiff toe.” It is an arthritic condition that limits movement of the big toe. The pain is usually located at the area where your large toe and foot meet. The condition is not serious, but should be treated before it can lead to hallux rigidus. Hallux rigidus is a condition in which motion of the big toe can become extremely limited.
The symptoms of hallux limitus are easy to overlook. Anyone can feel toe pain and believe that it is nothing serious. However, symptoms can include sharp pain, development of bone growths, feelings of tightness around the joint, difficulties wearing shoes, inflammation of the joint, and even the change in the way you walk. If you experience these symptoms, you should see a podiatrist while the condition is still in its early stages.
This condition may be a result of genetics, or the simple wearing out of your feet. Hallux limitus can be inherited or occur in people born with a predisposition to arthritis. Injury or overuse can cause trauma to the joint. This can lead to extra bone growth and the wearing away of cartilage. These situations will lead to arthritis, pain and limited motion in the toe. In some cases, certain systemic diseases such as lupus or gout can cause hallux limitus.
There are different methods for diagnosis, but an x-ray is generally performed along with a test to determine the big toe's range of motion.
A limited number of treatments are available; in mild cases, lifestyle and physical therapy are recommended, along with oral anti-inflammatory medications. The R.I.C.E. method, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation, is immensely helpful for treatment. It is crucial not to overuse the toe and to be careful when it comes to exercise and other physical activities. Too much activity can destroy the cartilage that remains in the toe joint, making the toe even stiffer.
However, if the patient does not show any improvement, surgery may have to be considered. The most common surgeries are arthrodesis, the fusing of the joint, and cheilectomy, when the joint is cleaned of scar tissue so the toe can move more easily. Many patients who receive surgery return to their normal routines usually a couple of months after their operation.
The plantar fascia is a connective tissue in the heel that stretches across the bottom length of your foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the connective tissue becomes inflamed, causing heel pain and discomfort during physical activity. Although the condition is completely treatable, traditional methods can take up to a year to start becoming effective.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by a number of everyday activities, so understanding the condition is important for managing and treating it. One of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis is excessive running, especially with improper fitting or non-supportive shoes. Too much exercise can lead to the plantar fascia being overworked and overstretched, which can cause tears in the tissue. Along with improper fitting shoes, pronation, the rolling of the feet inward, is a common cause of plantar fasciitis. If not treated properly, the plantar fascia becomes overstretched and starts to tear, causing inflammation.
Despite the common causes of plantar fasciitis, there are many different treatment options. For less severe cases, conservative home remedies include taking anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate pain, applying ice packs to the bottom of your foot and heel, slowly stretching and exercising your feet to re-strengthen the tissue, and using orthotic devices are all ways to help manage your plantar fasciitis.
For more severe cases, shockwave therapy has become a common solution for plantar fasciitis. Shockwave therapy can effectively break up the tissue on the bottom of your foot which facilitates healing and regeneration. This fights the chronic pain caused by plantar fasciitis. Even if this doesn’t work, surgery is always a final option. Surgery on the tissue itself can be done to permanently correct the issue and stop the inflammation and pain in your heels.
No matter what the case may be, consulting your podiatrist is the first and best step to recovery. Even the slightest amount of heel pain could be the first stage of plantar fasciitis. Untreated symptoms can lead to the tearing and overstretching of tissue. Because the tearing of tissue can be compounded if it remains ignored, it can evolve into a severe case. The solution is early detection and early treatment. Talk to your podiatrist about the possibilities of plantar fasciitis if you’re experiencing heel pain.