January Articles 2014

Hammertoe: No Walk in the Park!

Hammertoe is a painful deformity of the second, third, or fourth toe, frequently caused by improper mechanics—the way a person walks or the shoes they wear that do not allow room for the deformity. Similar to mallet toe and claw toe, hammertoe involves different joints of the toe and foot. Shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot, or have excessively high heels, can cause of hammertoe. Improperly sized shoes force the toes into a bent position for long periods, causing the muscles to shorten and bend the toes into the hammertoe deformity.

Other causes of hammertoe may be complications from RA (rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or CVA (cerebral vascular accident). Symptoms of hammertoe include, but may not be limited to, pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformity, and calluses or corns from toes abrading one another.

A patient experiencing symptoms of hammertoe should seek examination by a physician, specifically a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat disorders of the foot. If the doctor finds the involved toes have retained some flexibility, treatment may involve simple exercise, physical therapy, and a better fit to shoes worn by the patient. Treatment often targets controlling the mechanics, such as walking, that cause hammertoe by using custom orthotics.

In more advanced cases, where the toes have become rigid and inflexible, the doctor may suggest surgery. The operation would consist of incising the toe to relieve pressure on the tendons. The doctor may re-align tendons and remove small pieces of bone in order to straighten the toe. The insertion of pins may be necessary to fix bones in the proper position while the toe heals. Usually the patient is able to return home on the day of surgery.

If surgery is necessary, it is important to follow the postoperative directions of your physician. Theses may include various stretches, attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet, or picking up marbles with your toes. Striving to wear shoes with low heels and ample toe space will ensure healthy feet and toes. Avoid closed shoes and high heels. Laced shoes tend to be roomier and more comfortable. Shoes with a minimum of one half inch space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe will provide adequate space, relieve pressure on your toes, and prevent hammertoe from re-occurring.

Some tips on feet may include purchasing shoes at mid-day as your feet are smaller in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Ensure that she shoes you buy are both the same size and have the store stretch shoes at painful points to provide for optimum comfort.

What Are Ankle/Foot Orthotics?

Orthotics is a field that focuses on the manufacturing, design, and use of aids used to support or direct the proper function of weak limbs. Ankle-foot orthotics, also known as AFOs, are braces that are worn on the ankle that can encompass either some or all of the foot. AFOS are predominantly use to help treat diseases that weaken or affect the musculature of an affected area in order to strengthen and train the muscles properly. It can also be noted that tight muscles in need of lengthening or loosening can also benefit from AFOs.

When one initially thinks of diseases that affect the musculature often the ‘big names’ come to mind. This includes muscular dystrophy, polio, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. It’s rarely thought that a stroke or arthritis can also affect the musculature as well. Regardless of what trauma is affecting the musculature, however, there is a way to correct it. Orthotics help to control the range of motion, correct deformities, manage pain load and provide support by stabilizing walk. Podiatrists are consulted for all of these conditions whether it’s simply everyday pain, wasted musculature or those who ‘toe in’.

Before orthotic devices became modern devices, many polio victims wore metal braces from mid-thigh to the foot’s bottom. Many children ‘toed in’ wearing these metal braces. Design materials improved drastically and allow for new levels of functionality, comfort and even appearance. Many orthotics are derived from plastics and maintain an L shape, which is designed to fit inside a corrective shoe. These corrective shoes are available with built-up soles to help correct the gait or manage pain by sharing it with another area as the foot spreads during walking. In the past leather and fiberboard were used to provide rigidity that was needed for correction and support.

The podiatrist prescribes orthotics in an L shape since the foot moves on a hinge. If this hinge is not moving as it should, the muscles tighten up which reduces the foot’s flexibility. As we walk, the foot flexes as the muscles stretch. A brace or AFO supports the ankle and musculature during the foot’s flexing much as a knee brace would work. Corrective shoes are for those whose feet hit the ground backwards, causing arch problems and muscle tightness. Wedges and rocker bars on the heels correct the step to heel first and rock on the ball of the foot. This results in stronger ankles and a more relaxed musculature.

Appearance also counts, especially when intended for everyday day wear. L shaped orthotics are contoured to the calf and flesh colored, fitting into a dress shoe or sneaker. This makes corrective shoes more attractive than past models, allowing patients to wear these devices not only with greater comfort but with confidence as well.

How Obesity Affects Your Feet

Maybe you have gained a few extra pounds over the past couple of years. It comes on slowly and you are not always aware of it until your feet start hurting at the end of the day. After all, they carry the weight of your whole body. Experiencing foot pain and swelling is one of the biggest side effects of being overweight.

Many problems that occur in the feet are directly related to carrying even a small amount of extra weight. If you are overweight, the body may try to compensate by changing the way it moves. You may lean forward a bit and put extra weight on the wrong part of the foot. Your feet were designed to carry a normal amount of body weight and any extra will put undue stress on them.

Many people who are overweight as adults develop type 2 diabetes and it is often the cause of leg and foot pain. This is very serious and often older people who do not control their condition may lose all feeling in their legs and feet. It is also possible to develop small sores on the feet, and when you have diabetes, these do not always heal properly which can lead to serious infection.

The extra pressure and stress placed on muscles, joints, and tendons in the feet by extra body weight can also trigger plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the foot, and causes pain and stiffness when walking and climbing stairs. Pain caused by plantar fasciitis can be relieved by foot stretches and orthotics inserted into the shoe.

Foot problems triggered by excess body weight may be treated by special attention to footwear. Shoes that properly support the foot – especially the arch and ankle – and allow for good circulation are very important. A podiatrist can help you decide what kind of shoe is best for your feet. Orthotics – special inserts that can be inserted into shoes – can absorb shock, support the arches, and keep the feet properly aligned. These can be found in shoe stores or may be fitted by a podiatrist.

It may also be time to consider taking off a few pounds to prevent diabetes and other life threatening diseases. Your feet will certainly thank you for it and you will feel better in a short amount of time. A water aerobics class at a local gym is a way to get needed exercise without putting any stress on the feet or ankles. Yoga is also an activity that is beneficial both to your feet and your entire body. Don't risk losing your freedom by ignoring foot pain. If you take care of your feet, you can keep your feet and your entire body feeling great.

Blisters on the Feet

If you have ever worn a pair of shoes that were two tight or just rubbed you in the wrong place, then chances are that you have experienced the pain of having a blister formed. To better understand how blisters form, what treatment we should apply for blisters, and how we can avoid having them form, we should learn more about what blisters are.

A blister on the foot is basically a small pocket that is fluid filled. This pocket typically forms on the upper layers of skin, because those layers are so thin. The majority of the time, blisters are filled with clear fluid; however, sometimes the blisters may be filled with blood and even pus if they have become infected due to bacteria entering the blister pocket.

Blisters on the feet are almost always a result of a shoe rubbing the foot constantly which results in what is termed a friction blister. These blisters occur after you have walked for very long periods of time or when you wear a pair of shoes that do not fit your feet properly. Blisters also form more easily if your feet are moist.

If you experience the displeasure of having a blister form on your foot, then proper treatment is an absolute must to alleviate pain and to prevent infection. In general the best treatment for blisters that are full of clear fluid is to just leave them alone. Your body will form new skin under the blister and then when the time is right your body will allow the blister to pop. If you try to lance the blister you may introduce bacteria in it that will lead to an infection. If the blister is painful, then you can use a band-aid over it to provide some cushioning which should relieve pain.

If the blister is filled with blood or pus, then the best treatment is to seek out the attention of a doctor. These blisters may need to be further evaluated and you may be given antibiotics to destroy any infection that you may have.

Preventing blisters on the feet is the best way to prevent any pain or infection that could occur. You can prevent blisters by keeping your feet dry and by making sure that you wear a proper pair of shoes that fit your feet well, without being too tight or too loose. If you do feel a place on your foot where your shoe is rubbing, then applying a band-aid to that spot may prevent a blister from forming until you can change them.

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