November Articles 2013

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.


Systemic Diseases of the Foot
There are several systemic diseases, or diseases that affect the whole body, that either display symptoms in the feet or affect the health of the feet. Common systemic diseases that affect the overall health of the feet, and the patient’s ability to walk comfortably, include gout, diabetes mellitus, neurological disorders, and arthritis.

In gout, which is caused by an excessive buildup of uric acid in the body, the most common symptoms of pain, inflammation, and redness occur at the metatarsal/phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe. Any excess levels of uric acid, crystallize and are deposited in tendons, joints, and surrounding bone and muscle tissue. Gout is commonly treated with NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation and other drugs to lower uric acid levels in the body. Gout most commonly affects those who are overweight, have low protein diets and lead a more sedentary lifestyle.

Diabetes mellitus is an increase in the level of blood sugar in which the body cannot counteract with naturally occurring insulin in the body. The three types of diabetes, Type I, Type II and Gestational Diabetes, are all signs the body is either not producing enough insulin or is not efficiently using the insulin that is produced. Gestational diabetes only affects women who are pregnant and have never, prior to pregnancy, exhibited symptoms of the disease.

There are two main issues that affect the feet that are commonly caused by diabetes. They include diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to damaged nerves and affect the feet through numbness and loss of sensation. Peripheral vascular disease restricts the flow of blood to the foot and can, in extreme cases, lead to the necessity of amputating the foot. Peripheral issues that are caused by diabetes and can affect the foot include athlete’s foot, nail infections, corns, blisters, bunions, severe dry skin, plantar warts and ingrown toenails. These can all be attributed to the decrease of blood flow to the foot.

Neurological disorders and rheumatoid arthritis can also have severe impact on the health of the feet. Neurological disorders can affect the nerves in the main structure of the foot and cause loss of sensation and possible decreased muscle response. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the bones and joint structures of the foot, making it impossible to walk normally without serious pain.

All systemic diseases that affect the foot can effectively be treated to minimize joint and muscle damage if they are diagnosed early and treated with medication and lifestyle therapy. Diabetes patients must monitor their blood sugar levels and work with their physician to keep their levels as close to normal as possible. Rheumatoid arthritis patients should work with their physician to ensure the proper medications are being taken to reduce the amount of damage to the joints of the body.


Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Relieves Heel Pain
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.”


What to Know About a Broken Toe
Although most people try to avoid foot trauma such as banging, stubbing, or dropping heavy objects on their feet, the unfortunate fact is that it is a common occurrence. Given the fact that toes are positioned in front of the feet, they typically sustain the brunt of such trauma. When trauma occurs to a toe, the result can be a painful break (fracture). Another type of trauma that can break a toe is repeated activity that places stress on the toe for prolonged periods of time.

Broken toes can be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. Symptoms of minor toe fractures include throbbing pain, swelling, bruising on the skin and toenail, and the inability to move the toe with ease. Severe toe fractures require medical attention and are indicated when the broken toe appears crooked or disfigured, when there is tingling or numbness in the toe, when the injured person experiences fever or chills throughout their body, and when there is an open, bleeding wound present on the toe.

Generally, a minor toe break will heal without long-term complications, but it is important to discontinue activities that put pressure on the toe. It is best to stay off of the injured toe with the affected foot elevated on pillows. Swelling can be alleviated by placing an ice pack on the broken toe for 15 minutes every two hours during the first two days after the fracture. The broken toe should be immobilized by placing a small cotton ball between the injured toe and the toe beside it, then taping the two toes together with medical tape. 

Severe toe fractures may be treated with a splint, cast, and in some cases, minor surgery; especially when the big toe has been broken. Due to its position and the pressure it endures with daily activity, future complications can occur if the big toe is not properly treated. Pain associated with minor toe fractures can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications, and prescription pain killers may be necessary for severe toe fractures.

The healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. In severe cases where the toe becomes infected or requires surgery, healing time can take up to eight weeks or more. While complications associated with a broken toe are immediately apparent, it is important to note that there are rare cases when additional complications, such as osteoarthritis, can develop over time. 

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