Items filtered by date: August 2014
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Swimming and Your Feet

If our feet could talk, they would complain about all the walking, running and long standing we put them through. Our feet deserve a break from the stress put on them, and swimming is a great way to do just that. This activity not only takes all the weight off of the feet, allowing them to relax—there are many other reasons why it is helps take care of feet as well.

Swimming is great for foot health because it improves blood circulation to all the lower extremities. This is especially true for older people or those with injuries, who often cannot exercise as much due to weakened muscles or joints. Water supports much of the weight of the swimmer, relieving aches and allowing him or her to move freely. This gets the blood flowing to the rest of the body, including the feet.

Improving blood flow is also paramount to those with diabetes, who usually have problems with circulation in their feet. Additionally, because of various foot complications, it is often difficult for these people to exercise. Swimming is a good, safe way to get in extra physical activity and improve circulation, without causing further trauma to the feet.

For those that have foot problems due to overuse, swimming can be very beneficial. Athletes and people who are constantly on their feet frequently suffer from injuries like foot tendinitis or ankle sprains. Swimming in cold water can reduce foot inflammation, while swimming in warm water can increase blood flow and make it easier to move and stretch the afflicted foot. Furthermore, because the feet are usually covered during high activity, they tend to sweat a lot. This can cause complications like athlete's foot. Swimming not only allows the feet to be open to the air, it gives them a chance to be cleaned as someone moves around in the water.

Pregnant women who suffer from edema can benefit from swimming, because it allows them to get off their feet for a while. Due to the buoyancy of the human body, they may comfortably float and move around without exerting uncomfortable and often painful pressure on swollen feet and legs. This also lets them to relax sore muscles and joints.

Swimming is, in general, one of the best ways to exercise while protecting and caring for your feet. It takes all the pressure off of them, allowing the feet to relax and recover, and improves blood flow to them. It also makes it easier for someone to stretch and ease an injured foot, which helps heal it and reduces recovery time. If someone has any foot issues at all, or if they simply want to let their feet relax for a while, they should just go swimming.

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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.

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What To Know About Ankle Injuries

Ankle injuries are a very common injury to the foot. The ankle is the point of connection from the leg and the foot. The joint is the point where the tibia (big leg bone), fibula (small leg bone) and the talus (top of the foot) all meet. These bones are held together by tendons and ligaments. Tendons hold muscles to bone and ligaments hold bones together. An ankle sprain involves the ligaments of the foot.

Ankle sprains occur when the foot is twisted in an unnatural way. While sports injuries have many ankle sprains, other common experiences such as slipping on stairs or walking on uneven ground can result in an ankle sprain. When the foot twists in a way that is not natural, the ligaments will be stretched.

Immediately after an ankle sprain occurs, there will be fluid leakage into the tissues. This causes inflammation and swelling which results in pain. Nerves are sensitized and the increase in fluids puts additional pressure on the nerves which causes an increase in pain. When this occurs, heavy blood flow to the injured area will often result in heat, making swollen ankles warm to the touch.

Severe pain, deformity of the bone, loss of feeling, and inability to walk for even minimal amounts of time are indications that you need to seek immediate medical attention. The ligaments that hold the foot bones together might become too stretched which can cause the bone to feel out of place or dislocated. A podiatrist will provide an examination to make sure there is feeling present, adequate movement, and that the tendons have not been damaged. If symptoms warrant it, an x-ray will be ordered to determine possible fractures.

One of the first things to do after an ankle injury is to apply ice to the area of injury. The immediate use of ice helps to reduce inflammation, but should not be applied directly to the injured area. Reducing the pressure on the ankle is another key step when treating sprains. This involves elevating the ankle above the level of the heart to reduce the flow of fluids. An elastic bandage may be needed which provides support for the ankle and prevents inflammation through compression.

Limiting motion of the injured ankle will help speed up the recovery. Using a brace or crutch is an effective way to limit motion and promote a speedy recovery. If properly addressed, ankle sprains can heal in a minimal amount of time. There may be some limitation as to movement, however, stretching and rotation of the joint can get it back to prior injury status.

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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.

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