May Articles 2015

Biomechanics in Podiatry

Biomechanics and its related study deal with forces that act against the body and effect things like our movement. In podiatry, biomechanics are studied to determine the movement of the ankle, toes, and the foot itself, as well as the forces that impact them. Podiatrists who train in this specialty are able to effectively diagnose and treat conditions that affect people’s everyday movement.

Regardless of your lifestyle, age, or any other factors, many people experience foot problems throughout their lives. Twists and turns, improper balance, and added weight are just a few of the things that can add stress to the feet and limit the mobility everyone takes for granted. Pain in the feet and ankles can also trickle up towards the lower legs, knees, hip, and even back area, all effecting the way you move around on a daily basis.

The history of studying biomechanics dates back to ancient Egypt at around 3000 B.C., where evidence of professional foot care has been recorded. Throughout the centuries, advances in technology, science, and an understanding of the human body led to more accurate diagnosis of conditions such as corns for example. In 1974, biomechanics garnered a large audience when Merton Root claimed that changing or controlling the forces between the ankle and the foot, corrections of certain conditions could be implemented to gain strength and coordination in the area. Due to his research, we still use his basic principle of thermoplastic foot orthotics to this day.

As technology has improved, so have the therapeutic processes that allow us to correct deficiencies in our natural biomechanics. Computers can now provide accurate readings of the forces, movements, and patterns of the foot and lower leg. Critical treatment options can be provided to patients now who suffer from problems that cause their biomechanics to not function naturally. The best results are now possible thanks to 3D modeling and computing technologies that can not only take readings, but also map out what treatment will do to the affected areas.

These advanced corrective methods were able to come to light thanks to an increase in both the technologies surrounding biomechanics and also the knowledge of how they work naturally. For example, shoe orthotics is able to treat walking inabilities by realigning the posture deviations in patients caused by hip or back problems. Understanding foot biomechanics can help improve movement and eliminate pain, stopping further stress to the foot, so speaking with your podiatrist if you have any of these problems is highly recommended.

Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is an extremely contagious infection caused by a fungus that results in itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet. The fungus that causes athletes foot is known as tinea pedis and thrives in moist, dark areas such as shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, commons areas, public changing areas, bathrooms, dormitory style houses, locker rooms, and public swimming pools. Athlete’s foot is difficult to treat as well because of the highly contagious and recurrent nature of the fungus.

Tinea is the same fungus that causes ringworm, and is spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by touching other objects and body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Because the feet are an ideal place for tinea to grow, thrive, and spread, this is the most commonly affected area, but it is known to grow in other places. However, for obvious reasons, the term athlete’s foot describes tinea that grows strictly on the feet.

The most commonly infected body parts are the hands, groin, and scalp, as well as obviously the feet. Around 70% of the population suffer from tinea infections at some point in their lives, however not all of these cases are athlete’s foot. Just like any other ailment, some people are more likely to get it than others, such as people with a history of tinea infections or other skin infections, both recurring and non-recurring ones. On top of this, the extent to which a person experiences regrowth and recurrent tinea infections varies from person to person.

Sometimes people will not even know that they are infected with tinea or that they have athlete’s foot because of a lack of symptoms. However, most experience mild to moderate flaking, itching, redness, and burning. However, some of the more severe symptoms include cracking and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, pain while walking or standing, and even blistering.

Because of the recurring nature of the tinea fungus and the athlete’s foot it causes, the best way to treat this condition is with prevention. While it is hard to completely avoid, you can take some preventative measures such as wearing flip flops or sandals in locker rooms and public showers to reduce contact with the floor. It also helps to keep clean, dry feet while allowing them to breathe. Using powders to keep your feet dry is a good idea, as well as keeping your feet exposed to light and cool air, as these are not desirable conditions for tinea to grow. If you do happen to get athlete’s foot, treating it with topical  medicated creams, ointments or sprays will not only help eliminate it but also prevent it from coming back.

Blisters on the Feet

Blisters are a common ailment of people who wear shoes that are either too tight or rubbed up against their feet in the wrong way while wearing them. In order to better understand how they are formed and what treatment should be used for them, you have to start with the basics of what a blister actually is.

A blister on the foot, or any other part of the body for that matter, is a small pocket that is filled with fluid. It usually forms on the upper layer of the skin because these layers are loose enough to allow a blister to form. The most common fluid in a blister is just a clear, watery like fluid that should not cause any concern. However, blisters can fill up with blood if they are deep enough and even pus if they have become infected with bacteria.

Blisters almost always form on the feet due to shoes rubbing up against the foot, where the friction causes blisters. These can occur after you have walked for a long period of time for example, or when your shoes simply do not fit you properly. They also form faster and easier if your feet are moist, so keeping them dry and clean is a preventative step you can take to avoid getting blisters.

Preventing infection should be the number one concern when treating blisters, as well as alleviating the pain they can cause. Using a band aid to cover up the blister will help it heal and prevent bacteria from entering it. New skin will form under the blister and eventually cause it to pop, or you can take a pin and try to pop it yourself.

If the blister is filled with pus or blood, seeking treatment from a doctor is ideal. Antibiotics might need to be taken in order to completely eliminate the bacteria inside the blister, and that needs to be prescribed by a doctor.

However, one of the best ways to treat blisters is to prevent them all together. Keeping your feet dry and making sure that your shoes fit properly are just two of the steps you can take to prevent blisters. Shoes that are too tight or shoes that are too loose and allow your feet to slide in them will cause blisters. Applying a band aid to an area you think might get a blister before one pops up is another way you can prevent them.

Ingrown Toenail Care

An ingrown toenail is caused when a toenail grows sideways into the bed of the nail, causing pain and swelling. Sometimes this can become infected causing drainage and may become serious.

There are many risk factors that can predispose a person to this common condition. Cutting your nails too short, participating in sports, diabetes, being overweight, or having a fungal infection of the toe can all cause ingrown toe nails. Many people are genetically prone to ingrown nails and it can often be related to genetics. Often the problem can come from wearing ill-fitting shoes, or even from shoes that keep the feet slightly damp.

There are some things that you can do to prevent and treat these painful problems. Letting your toe nails grow a little longer will help prevent this condition. If you do develop an ingrown nail, soaking the toe in hot water will help prevent infection and lessen pain. You may want to add antibiotic soap or Epsom salts to the water. This will help to prevent infection.

Some experts also recommend placing small pieces of cotton under the affected part. This will help the toenail to grow up instead into in your nail bed. Resting with your feet up can reduce swelling and redness.

If your pain is so severe that it keeps you from everyday activities, it is time to see your podiatrist. Also, if you see a red streak running up your leg, or if your infection is spreading, see a podiatrist immediately. There are many quick treatments that can lessen your pain and have you walking with comfort.

One method of treating an ingrown toenail involves using a Band-Aid. Wrapping the affected toe with a Band-Aid will prevent infection and also keep the nail from growing out at painful angles.

If your podiatrist feels it is necessary, he or she may make a small incision and remove part of your toe nail. Medication will be placed in the nail bed to prevent re-growth of the problem nail parts. This will be done under local anesthesia and should lessen your discomfort in no time. You will be advised to stay off your foot for a day or so, but can then carry on normal activities.

Take care of your feet; you have many steps to take in your life. Walking in comfort should be a priority for a lifetime of healthy living.