May Articles 2013

Facts to Know About Achilles Tendon Injuries

The Achilles tendon, the strongest tendon in the human body, connects the lower leg muscles and calf to the heel of the foot. This tendon facilitates all of our movement, from walking to running and everything in between. Injuries to the Achilles tendon are not only incredible painful, but extremely debilitating because of our large reliance on this one tendon. Injuries to the Achilles tendon prevent walking and running, and even standing up straight can be hard to do.

Achilles tendonitis and ruptures of the Achilles tendon are the two most common problems affecting this area. Tendonitis is the milder of the two injuries, despite still being a serious problem. It usually involves chronic symptoms such as inflammation, dull to severe pain, increased blood flow to the tendon, a thickening of the tendon, and slower movement time. Tendonitis can be diagnosed with an MRI and is very treatable.

Achilles ruptures are a more complicated injury and by far the most painful of the two. These occur when the tendon completely snaps or rips, causing a rupture. You will immediately know when you’ve experienced an Achilles tendon rupture because the effects are incredibly painful and devastating as soon as the injury occurs. It will leave you completely immobile and often times, surgery needs to be done to fix it. On top of this, recovery time can take up to a year depending on the severity.

While an injury is not completely preventable, there are some preventative measures you can take to reduce the chance of one occurring. Stretching out the tendon become exercise or physical activity is the most important tip. You can also help strengthen the tendon itself with a variety of exercises including calf raises, squats, leg curls, leg extensions, leg raises, lunges, and leg presses.

Despite these tips, many athletes continue to suffer Achilles tendon injuries, often due to overuse or excessive activity. Properly stretching and strength training this area is key, but it is also important to wear the right shoes, ones that fit correctly and provide ankle support. It is also recommended by many athletes and professionals to work out on a cushioned mat to relieve the pressure on the heels and ankles. A healthy diet also goes a long way to having a strong and healthy Achilles tendon.

Because of the severity of the injury, and the large amount of dependence we have on the Achilles tendon, if you are experiencing any sort of injury in this area, seek professional medical help immediately. Further damage to this area can be crippling and debilitating, so seeking help immediately is of the utmost importance.

Pregnancy and Foot Health

Many pregnant women complain about foot pain while they are expecting, primarily caused by weight gain and hormonal changes taking place in the body. By understanding how pregnancy impacts the health of a woman's feet, a pregnant woman can take action to keep her feet as healthy and comfortable as possible.

Because a woman's weight changes during pregnancy, more pressure is brought to bear on both the legs and the feet. This weight shift can cause two major foot problems: over-pronation, also known as flat feet, as well as edema, which is swelling of the feet. Over-pronation occurs when the arch of the foot flattens, causing the foot to roll inwards when the individual is walking, and can aggravate the plantar fascia tissues located along the bottom of the feet. If these tissues become inflamed, a pregnant woman can experience pain in the heel of the foot as well as severe foot pain while walking or standing. Swelling of the feet, or edema, often occurs in the later stages of pregnancy, caused by slow circulation and water retention, and may turn the feet a light purple color.

To keep feet in good health and prevent over-pronation, pregnant women should avoid walking barefoot and be sure they are wearing shoes that offer good arch support. Often a device known as an orthotic can be added to regular footwear in order to provide additional support for the feet during pregnancy. Any expectant mother whose feet hurt should first check to see if the shoes she is wearing are old, worn out and not offering the arch of the foot the proper support necessary to support and distribute the weight of her body during pregnancy.

To treat edema of the feet, a good start is to wear quality footwear which offers support and good circulation. Keep feet elevated whenever possible by using a foot stool while seated. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water to prevent water retention in the feet. Any swelling that occurs in only one foot should be examined as soon as possible by a doctor.

Good foot health during pregnancy can help expectant mothers avoid foot pain that leads to other health problems. Massaging the feet and doing regular gentle exercise like walking aids in foot health by contributing to good circulation. Supportive shoes are also a good investment that will support foot health during pregnancy.

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains, while not as severe as a broken ankle, are still a serious injury that needs immediate attention. They can lead to limited mobility and a significant amount of pain, and are often characterized by swelling and sometimes discoloration of the skin. An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments are stretched beyond their limits, and even though this can happen in other places, such as the wrist, the ankles are the most common place for a sprain.

Ankle sprains can occur in many different ways, even just by simply walking. They happen when the ankle rolls over itself or twists under the foot, causing the ankle and tendon to snap or pop. Athletes who continually push their bodies to the limits are often at risk, as are people who have previously suffered accidents involving the lower extremities.

In most cases, ankle sprains are not severe enough to warrant medical help, such as going to a hospital. There are many self-care remedies you can use to treat your ankle, including applying ice packs to reduce swelling, remaining off your feet to reduce pressure, and elevating your feet above your head to reduce blood flow and inflammation. Often times an ACE bandage and over the counter pain relievers are enough, but it is still important to remember to stay off the ankle for some time to avoid re-aggravating it.

Even though most of these cases are mild, a severe ankle sprain can occur which will require professional, medical care. A sprain that causes a tear in the ligament or damage to the muscles is severe enough to warrant surgery and keep you off your feet for a prolonged period of time. Post-surgery physical therapy is often required in order to completely rehab the ankle back to health, and this will be administered and monitored by your podiatrist.

Even though ankle sprains may seem harmless and only mildly painful, if you are experiencing non-stop pain over a long period of time, if walking is becoming too painful for you, if the swelling is much more severe than initially anticipated, or if numbness and tingling is present, this may be signs that your sprain is a much more severe broken ankle. It is highly recommended to seek treatment right away for these symptoms.

Often times, preventative care is one of the best ways to avoid ankle sprains. Wearing appropriate fitting shoes that provide both ankle and arch support will help, as well as stretching before any kind of physical activity, including sports, weight training, or even simply jogging.

Effects of High Heels on the Feet

High heels are popular shoes among women because they are associated with femininity.  Despite their appeal, they can cause many health problems if worn too frequently.

What parts my body will be affected by high heels?

  • Ankle Joints
  • Achilles Tendon – may shorten and stiffen with prolonged wear
  • Balls of the Feet
  • Knees – heels cause the knees to bend constantly, creating stress on them
  • Back – they decrease the spine’s ability to absorb shock, which may lead to back pain.  Also, the vertebrae of the lower back may compress.

What kinds of foot problems can develop from wearing high heels?

  • Corns
  • Calluses
  • Hammertoe
  • Bunions
  • Morton’s Neuroma
  • Plantar Fasciitis

How can I still wear high heels and maintain foot health?

If you want to wear high heeled shoes, make sure that you are not wearing them every day, as this will help prevent long term physical problems.  Try wearing thicker heels as opposed to stilettos to distribute weight more evenly across the feet.  Always make sure you are wearing the proper shoes for the right occasion, such as sneakers for exercising.  If you walk to work, try carrying your heels with you and changing into them once you arrive at work.  Adding inserts to your heels can help cushion your feet and absorb shock; you can buy either full inserts or metatarsal pads. 

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