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Tuesday, 29 October 2019 00:00

Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle

Our bones are important aspects of our body and they are constantly changing. The heavier the workload for a bone, the more likely it is that calcium will be placed in it. When a bone isn’t used often, there won’t be much calcium within it. When stress from repetitive loads prevent the bone from being able to repair itself, cracks will start to form. Stress fractures are defined as cracks in a bone that result from repetitive force, such as overuse.

The most common cause of stress fractures is a sudden increase in intensity and duration of physical activity. For example, if you begin to run long distances without working your way into doing so, you will be more likely to develop a stress fracture.

Common symptoms of stress fractures are pain and swelling near the weight bearing area on the injured bone. When initial x-rays are performed, it is possible that the fracture will not show up. However, once the stress on the area continues, the damage will increase, and the fracture will be severe enough to show up on an x-ray. Certain parts of the foot are more likely to develop stress fractures than others. Areas that typically have these fractures are: the metatarsals, the navicular bone, the calcaneus, tibia, and fibula.

Since women are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, they are twice as likely as men to sustain a stress fracture. Additionally, old age causes a decrease in bone mineral density which is why elderly people are also likely to develop these fractures.

It is important for you to be professionally diagnosed by a podiatrist if you suspect you have a stress fracture, because there are other injuries that can easily be mistaken for a fracture.  Sprains, strains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and Morton’s neuroma can all easily be mistaken for stress fractures in the foot. Your podiatrist will likely ask you a series of questions to determine what type of pain you are experiencing. These questions will help your doctor identify whether you have a stress fracture.

The best method of treatment for a stress fracture is rest. Additionally, a walking boot, cast, or crutches, will help rest the area that is injured. The typical healing time for stress fractures is 4-12 weeks, however this depends on which bone is involved.

Monday, 21 October 2019 00:00

What to Know About a Broken Toe

Trauma to the foot, especially the toes, can occur in many ways. Banging them, stubbing them, or dropping something on them are a few different ways this trauma can occur. 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 or 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, or when there is an open, bleeding wound present on the toe.

Generally, a minor toe break will heal without long-term complications. However, it is important to discontinue activities that put pressure on the toe. It is best to stay off of the injured toe and immediately get a splint or cast to prevent any more additional movement of the toe bones. You can also immobilize your toe by placing a small cotton ball between the injured toe and the toe beside it. Then, tape the two toes together with medical tape. Swelling can be alleviated by placing an ice pack on the broken toe directly as well as elevating your feet above your head.

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 the big toe endures with daily activity, future complications can occur if it is not properly treated. Pain associated with minor toe fractures can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications. 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. You should immediately speak with your podiatrist if you think you have broken your toe due to trauma. They will be able to diagnose the injury and recommend the appropriate treatment options. 

Monday, 14 October 2019 00:00

Flatfoot

Flatfoot is a foot disorder that is not as straightforward as many people believe.  Various types of flatfoot exist, each with their own varying deformities and symptoms.  The partial or total collapse of the arch, however, is a characteristic common to all types of flatfoot.  Other signs of flatfoot include:

  • “Toe drift,” or the pointing outward of the toes and the front part of the foot
  • The tilting outward of the heel and the tilting inward of the ankle
  • The lifting of the heel off the ground earlier when walking due to a tight Achilles tendon
  • Hammertoes
  • Bunions

One of the most common types of flatfoot is flexible flatfoot.  This variation usually starts in childhood and progresses as one ages into adulthood.  Flexible flatfoot presents as a foot that is flat when standing, or weight-bearing.  When not standing, the arch returns.  Symptoms of flexible flatfoot include:

  • Pain located in the heel, arch, ankle, or along the outside of the foot
  • Overpronation, or an ankle that rolls in
  • Shin splint, or pain along the shin bone
  • General foot aches or fatigue
  • Pain located in the lower back, hip, or knee

Your podiatrist will most likely diagnose flatfoot by examining your feet when you stand and sit.  X-rays may be taken to define the severity and help determine the treatment option best for your condition.  Nonsurgical treatments can include activity modification, weight loss, orthotics, immobilization, medications, physical therapy, shoe modifications, and ankle foot orthoses (AFO) devices.  If nonsurgical methods prove ineffective, surgery may be considered.  Multiple surgical procedures can correct flatfoot; and depending on your specific condition, one may be selected alone or combined with other techniques to ensure optimal results.

Monday, 07 October 2019 00:00

Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are the result of calcium deposits that cause bony protrusions on the underside of the heel. Heel spurs are usually painless, but they have the potential to cause heel pain. Heel spurs tend to be associated with plantar fasciitis, which is a condition that causes inflammation of the band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. They most often occur to athletes whose sports involve a lot of running and jumping.

Some risk factors for developing heel spurs include running and jogging on hard surfaces, being obese, wearing poorly fitting shoes, or having walking gait abnormalities.

It is possible to have a heel spur without showing signs of any symptoms. However, if inflammation develops at the point of the spur’s formation, you may have pain while walking or running. In terms of diagnosis, sometimes all a doctor needs to know is that the patient is experiencing a sharp pain localized to the heel to diagnose a heel spur. Other times, an x-ray may be needed to confirm the presence of a heel spur.

Heel spurs can be prevented by wearing well-fitting shoes that have shock-absorbent soles. You should also be sure that you are choosing the right shoe for the activity you want to partake in; for example, do not wear walking shoes when you want to go on a run. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight can be beneficial toward preventing heel spurs, as it will prevent an excess amount of pressure being placed on the ligaments.

There are a variety of treatment options for people with heel spurs. Some of these include stretching exercises, physical therapy, shoe inserts, or taping and strapping to rest stressed muscles and tendons. If you have heel pain that lasts longer than a month, don’t hesitate to seek help from a podiatrist. Your doctor can help you determine which treatment option is best for you.

Tuesday, 01 October 2019 00:00

Effect of High Heels on the Feet

For hundreds of years, women have been wearing various kinds of high heels for aesthetic reasons. Women who wear high heels appear to be taller and have longer and thinner legs, and the wearer’s gait and posture changes. Though high heels have had an association with femininity and have kept them popular over the years, there are definite health problems caused by wearing them too frequently.

The motion of the ankle joints is limited when heels are worn. The ankle joint is very important to the body when it comes to walking. Because of their location, these joints have a great deal of weight put on them. Thus, it is very important to keep them as healthy as possible. The Achilles tendon is the main tendon in the ankle. Wearing high heels too often, studies have shown, can cause the calf muscle and Achilles tendon to shorten and stiffen. This can cause problems when shoes without heels are worn.

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

Not only does wearing high heels regularly have negative effects on the feet, the rest of the body can suffer as well. The knees, one of the most important joints in the entire body, can be affected by wearing high heels.  High heels can cause the knees to stay bent all the time. Also, it can cause them to bend slightly inward as well. Doctors believe that women can suffer from osteoarthritis later in life because of constantly walking like in high heels. By limiting the natural motion of the foot during walking, high heels also cause an increased in stress on the knees.

Similarly, high heels can cause the back to go out of alignment. If high heels are worn constantly, the spine’s ability to absorb shock can cause continued back pain. They can compress the vertebrae of the lower back, and can overuse the back muscles.

However, this is not to say that high heels can never be worn. If worn occasionally and not often, they will not cause serious problems. They should not be worn every day. It’s important to wear them modestly to avoid the long-term physical health problems of the feet, knees, ankles, and back mentioned above.

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