Items filtered by date: December 2014
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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.

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Exercise for Your Feet

Whether your feet are over-worked or under-worked, chances are they could benefit from some special attention. Even those who exercise regularly probably do not spend any time strengthening their feet. This can be just as rewarding as strengthening the rest of the body, since the health of your feet affects the health of the rest of the body as well, especially the ankles, legs, and spine.

For those who might not have any idea on how a foot-specific exercise might be conducted, there are several workouts that are fairly easy to perform in the comfort of ones’ home. One of the easiest is the toe rise, also known as the tip-toe. This exercise involves standing on the tip-toes for a count of 15 then resting the feet on the ground. This process should be repeated a minimum of three times a day in order to strengthen the feet.

Toe pick-ups strengthen the feet by working them in a very different way. In this exercise, small items are picked up using the toes in order to strengthen the muscles on the upper part of the feet. Once again three sets should be performed, with the item in question being held for 15 seconds then dropped. Items that may be picked up using the feet include marbles and even stationery, which works wonders for the toes and the surrounding muscles.

Yet another simple workout is the ankle pump. This can be done either upwards or downwards, but for the workout to be most effective both can be incorporated into the routine. As the term suggests, this involves lifting the foot off the floor and flexing the toes either towards the shin or towards the ground. This movement puts the feet and ankles through a large range of motion which works muscles.

Last but not least, feet should be stretched so that the muscles can relax and recuperate. This can be done by placing both feet of the floor and bracing oneself against the wall at a 45 degree angle. This ensures that the feet and ankles are adequately stretched once the workout is complete.

In short, giving the feet a good workout every now and then is important in order to avoid problems such as plantar fasciitis, as well as to warm-up or cool-down after running or vigorous walking. Foot exercises may be followed by a good foot massage which encourages circulation in the feet as well as muscle relaxation.

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Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are most commonly the result of calcium deposits on the back of the foot where the heel is. They may also be the result of small fragments of bone breaking off one section of the foot and attaching to the back of the foot. Heel spurs can also be bone growth on the back of the foot. When this is the case, the bone growth tends to grow in the direction of the arch of the foot.

Heel spurs are most commonly diagnosed in older individuals. Younger individuals also suffer from heel spurs, but the pain associated with the condition usually intensifies in aging. Heel spurs have the propensity to inflict a great deal of pain, although the heel spur itself does is not always the cause of the pain. Heel spurs are often associated with plantar fasciitis.

The pain that is associated with bone spurs can be traced to the placing of weight on the feet. As the individual stands or walks their weight is placed on the feet, causing the bone spur to press on and poke the other bones and tissues in the feet. This may result in severe pain. As the condition continues to persist the tissues in the feet will become tender and overly sensitive.

If an individual is suffering from heel spurs and their related pain, there are a number of treatments that may be undertaken. These treatments range from medicines, surgery, and herbal treatments. One of the simplest ways to ease the pain and discomfort of heel pain is to use special foot supports. These insoles are placed directly in the individual's shoes. They relieve the pain and tension that is placed on the foot by offering a soft gel pad for the weight to be evenly distributed without causing pain.

There are also a number of exercises that some believe may relieve or actually reverse heel spur growth and therefore stop the pain. One such exercise has the ball of the foot against the wall while balance is maintained on the heel of the foot. The individual then shifts their weight towards the wall, causing a rubbing of the heel spur. Other exercises and stretches may also be performed that can help loosen and relax muscles and tendons in the feet, relieving pain. Applying ice packs and taking anti-inflammatory medication may also help. Night splints may be worn while sleeping to keep the foot stretched out, which may make the foot less painful in the morning.

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Solutions for Cracked Heels

Cracked heels can be embarrassing, and can make life frustrating when sandal season comes around. But not only are they an aesthetic problem – they can also tear stockings, socks and even wear out shoes faster at the back, and when severe may cause pain and infection.

Cracked heels are a problem for many who walk a lot, who are athletic, and who have especially dry skin. Those who are using certain kinds of medication that will dry the skin, who swim a lot, wear certain kinds of shoes, and those who are diabetic may also have trouble with cracked heels. Seniors may have more trouble with cracked heels than others, since the skin’s production of oils decreases with age. There is no one way to get cracked heels, and there is no one cure for them.

Today there are numerous products on the market that have a variety of ingredients to promote healing. Some of these products are over-the-counter and some come from a physician’s prescription pad--especially for those who have chronic dry feet and heels.

Some doctors recommend for those with rough skin to wear socks at night when they sleep. This helps promote healing of the skin on the heels and helps any creams put on the feet stay on longer and better sink into the skin.

Using moisturizers both day and night is one way to help alleviate the dryness that causes cracked heels. Making sure that the skin is clean and dry at all times is another way. Using a pumice stone to remove dead skin before applying a moisturizer can also help, as many times cracked heels will not respond to moisturizers unless the thick outer layer of skin is first removed through exfoliation. Lotion or ointment applied after exfoliation will be absorbed by the skin much more easily.

Eating a well-balanced diet with foods that promote body healing and balance can also help the skin – from within. Whatever is put into the body can either help it or hurt it and foods that give the body staying power will permeate throughout, especially through the first line of protection--the skin. Taking supplements of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc may also help cracked heels.

Not all products that say they will help cracked heels actually work. See a professional for foot care if nothing being tried is working. A podiatrist or a dermatologist should be able to give information and advice to help with the problem.

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