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December 2021

Tuesday, 28 December 2021 00:00

Exercise for Your Feet

Foot and ankle pain can be a nuisance in a person’s life, especially if it happens frequently. The best way to prevent this type of pain, is to exercise often. Regular exercise of the foot includes stretching and strength exercises. Stretching exercises can help prevent injuries such as a sprained ankle, while strength exercises can prevent ailments such as plantar fasciitis.

Stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and the foot and ankle’s range of motion. These exercises can certainly help with those who participate in high-energy activities such as sports. Many athletes routinely perform foot and ankle exercises to prevent injuries like sprained ankles, which are common injuries where the tendons in the ankle are over stretched. Strength exercises help develop foot muscles for better support and protection.

Most exercises are simple and can be done at home, either standing or sitting. One chair exercise is called “limber up”. In this exercise, a person would start by sitting down with their feet flat on the floor. Then lift one leg up so the feet are not touching the floor, then rotate your foot clockwise 15-20 times, and 15-20 times counterclockwise. Repeat the same process with the opposite leg. Another sitting exercise helps stretch the back of your heel and requires an exercise band. It begins by looping the band around a heavy piece of furniture, or something stable that will not be moved when the band is tugged or pulled. Then sit directly in front of it, and slide one foot into the loop, so that the band curves around the forefoot. Start by pulling the forefoot back and holding it for 5-10 seconds. Doing this 10-15 times on each foot, will stretch the back of your heel, increasing your flexibility.

Foot exercises that require standing are also just as easy and simple. Referred as the “Achilles Stretch”, this exercise stretches the Achilles tendon, making it more flexible, helping prevent foot, ankle, and leg pain. It begins by first standing and facing the wall, with the arms outstretched and the palms on the wall. Then place one foot behind another keeping the back leg straight, and the forward leg bending at the knee. Make sure both heels are flat on the floor and adjust your stance accordingly. With your hips, lean forward to feel the stretch, you can also adjust the distance from your feet to feel the stretch in various parts of the calf. Make sure to hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat the same process 3 times with each leg. An even easier foot exercise is simply walking on sand. Walking barefoot on sand both strengthens and stretches your feet.

Doing these exercises regularly can help prevent many foot and ankle problems. Other foot exercises can even relieve pain. For example, those affected with plantar fasciitis can simply sit down on a chair, and then place a tennis ball below their affected foot. By rolling the ball under the foot, and increasing or decreasing pressure, pain will be relieved. With any exercise, it is always important to do a small warmup such as walking a few laps around the house to get the blood flowing. If after doing an exercise to relieve pain such as the tennis ball exercise, or are unsure that your execution is correct, be sure to contact a podiatrist for further instruction.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021 00:00

Falls Prevention

Elderly Americans are very susceptible to falls as they get older. Everyone experiences decreases in flexibility, balance, strength, and the senses as they age. This correlates to some eye-opening statistics. 1 in 4 Americans aged 65 and older fall each year. An elderly American is being treated for a fall in an emergency room every 11 seconds, and every 19 minutes, an older person dies from falling. In light of these striking statistics, one can see the importance of taking steps to prevent falls.

Finding an exercise program for the elderly is an excellent way to reduce the likelihood of falls. Look for an exercise program that improves strength and balance. Elderly people who live a more sedentary lifestyle, with little physical activity, are at an increased risk of falling. Wearing well-fitted footwear that provides good foot support and cushion will help prevent falls from poorly fitted shoes. Talking to a podiatrist about your susceptibility to falls and about inspecting your prescriptions will help to avoid any medication that could make falls more likely. Due to a decline in the senses among the elderly, having your eyes and hearing checked is recommended.

Around half of all falls occur in the household. Removing tripping hazards in the home and making it more accommodating to older persons can significantly reduce falls. Some notable household changes include increasing lighting around the house, installing grab bars in the shower and bathroom, and making sure the floor is clear of clutter. Other smart options include installing a shower chair, using rubber-bottomed rugs, and placing railings on both sides of stairwells.  

Finally, discuss with a doctor and your family about your fear of falling. This will help to increase awareness among the population on the need for fall prevention. A lack of awareness on the matter, and a downplaying of importance are what increase the risks of falling. Following these tips can help to reduce the risk for yourself and your loved ones.

 

Tuesday, 14 December 2021 00:00

Bunions

A bunion is an enlargement of the base joint of the toe that connects to the foot, often formed from a bony growth or a patch of swollen tissues. It is caused by the inward shifting of the bones in the big toe, toward the other toes of the foot. This shift can cause a serious amount of pain and discomfort. The area around the big toe can become inflamed, red, and painful.

Bunions are most commonly formed in people who are already genetically predisposed to them or other kinds of bone displacements. Existing bunions can be worsened by wearing improperly fitting shoes. Trying to cram your feet into high heels or running or walking in a way that causes too much stress on the feet can exacerbate bunion development. High heels not only push the big toe inward, but shift one's body weight and center of gravity towards the edge of the feet and toes, expediting bone displacement.

A podiatrist knowledgeable 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 reduce pressure on the bunion and minimize pain, and high heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time. 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 by rearranging 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 avoid placing pressure on the toe, as the big toe may move back to its former orientation toward the smaller toes.

Tuesday, 07 December 2021 00:00

Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle

Our bones are important aspects of our body and they are constantly changing. The heavier the workload for a bone, the more likely it is that calcium will be placed in it. When a bone isn’t used often, there won’t be much calcium within it. When stress from repetitive loads prevent the bone from being able to repair itself, cracks will start to form. Stress fractures are defined as cracks in a bone that result from repetitive force, such as overuse.

The most common cause of stress fractures is a sudden increase in intensity and duration of physical activity. For example, if you begin to run long distances without working your way into doing so, you will be more likely to develop a stress fracture.

Common symptoms of stress fractures are pain and swelling near the weight bearing area on the injured bone. When initial x-rays are performed, it is possible that the fracture will not show up. However, once the stress on the area continues, the damage will increase, and the fracture will be severe enough to show up on an x-ray. Certain parts of the foot are more likely to develop stress fractures than others. Areas that typically have these fractures are: the metatarsals, the navicular bone, the calcaneus, tibia, and fibula.

Since women are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, they are twice as likely as men to sustain a stress fracture. Additionally, old age causes a decrease in bone mineral density which is why elderly people are also likely to develop these fractures.

It is important for you to be professionally diagnosed by a podiatrist if you suspect you have a stress fracture, because there are other injuries that can easily be mistaken for a fracture.  Sprains, strains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and Morton’s neuroma can all easily be mistaken for stress fractures in the foot. Your podiatrist will likely ask you a series of questions to determine what type of pain you are experiencing. These questions will help your doctor identify whether you have a stress fracture.

The best method of treatment for a stress fracture is rest. Additionally, a walking boot, cast, or crutches, will help rest the area that is injured. The typical healing time for stress fractures is 4-12 weeks, however this depends on which bone is involved.

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