February Articles 2014

What to Know About Achilles Tendon Injuries

The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the human body, connecting the heel to the lower leg and calf muscles. This tendon helps to aid the process that involves movement in the legs, such as walking and running. Since this tendon is very important to providing mobility to an individual if there are any injuries to the Achilles tendon they need to be addressed by a physician immediately.

The most common injuries that can trouble the Achilles tendon are tendon ruptures and Achilles tendinitis. Achilles tendon is the less severe of the two injuries. Often diagnosed through MRI, Achilles tendinitis involves inflammation, an increased blood flow to the tendon, tendon thickening, pain that ranges from dull to severe and slowed movement. Despite tendinitis being the milder of the two conditions, it should still be looked at and treated by a physician right away, or else one risks the chance of incurring a greater injury.

Achilles tendon ruptures are much more difficult to treat. They are caused by the tendon snapping or ripping, with more immediate, and painful, symptoms. The results are immediate and absolutely devastating and will render the patient immobile. Depending on the injury’s severity, treatment and recovery time for Achilles tendon ruptures often vary, which may take up to a year. Fortunately, there are both operative and non-operative methods available in terms of treatment. A podiatrist can help you determine which option is best for your condition.

Although no injury is completely preventable, there are ways to minimize the chances of incurring an injury. Be sure to stretch out the tendon before and after physical activity as it can stimulate the tissue. Exercises that include squats, calf raises, lunges, leg presses, leg curls and leg extensions are all good ways to help strengthen the tendon.

Individuals who may overexert themselves during physical activity incur a higher risk of these injuries. This is especially true for athletes. Try to be on a cushioned surface when exercising, such as a mat, as heel pressure can be relieved this way. Occasion appropriate footwear can also serve to minimize the risk of tendon-related injuries. And of course, a healthy diet increases tendon, and bodily, health while decreasing obesity associated risks.

Visit a podiatrist if you think you have an injury in the Achilles region. Failure to address these injuries can cause further damage and complications that could even render you immobile.

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 biomechanics 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.

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 of 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 off 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.

Getting the Right Shoe Size: How To Keep Your Feet Happy

Are your shoes the right size? Many people are walking around with ill-fitting shoes. Picking the right shoe size is not rocket science, but there are a few things to remember when selecting your next pair.

Most shoe stores and department stores have rulers for measuring your feet, and these can give you an exact size. Be sure to measure with your shoe on. Measuring your foot will give you a different size than your shoe. If you do measure your foot size, you will need to add 1-2 inches to get the proper sizing.

Wiggle room is the most important factor when selecting shoes. Make sure that your toes are not cramped and that you can wiggle them. A rule of thumb is that there should be one inch between your toes and the tip of your shoe. If your shoes are not properly sized, you can experience foot pain, knee pain, blisters, and swelling.

Don’t assume that you will always wear the same size in a shoe. Often manufacturers size shoes differently. The size you wear with one company may not be the same as the size you wear with another. Make sure that the company you buy from has a return policy. No one needs a closet full of shoes which they cannot wear.

It is advisable not to buy your shoes in the morning but rather late in the day. Your feet actually swell as the day goes on and you need plenty of room to walk comfortably. Buying shoes in the morning that are snug are sure to cause problems once the day is done. Also, make sure that you are buying the right sizes for both feet. It is not uncommon for one foot to be larger than the other, and some people have to buy two separate sizes to accommodate different sized feet.

The biggest concern in buying shoes is a comfort. Oftentimes people will buy shoes that are not the most comfortable in the store. People think that the shoes simply need to be “broken in”. If a shoe does not fit in the store, it will not fit at home either. Comfort should be the ultimate goal when purchasing a pair of shoes; your feet will thank you.

Let’s face it; we all walk a lot, some of us more than others. Selecting the best shoes for your particular lifestyle is essential. By properly sizing your shoes and buying the proper comfort level, your feet will be dancing all day long.

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