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Monday, 14 January 2019 00:00

Debilitating foot pain is a problem for many people. But just as stretching the torso can help alleviate back pain, stretching the feet can also help mend existing foot problems and prevent future ones.

The feet, as the body’s foundation, carry the body’s entire weight and can get easily strained from overexertion. Persistent sharp pain and cramping in the feet are often common concerns. Foot pain and foot problems can be due to any number of causes, and in many cases pain may be eased without medication or doctor visits. It is always a good idea, however, to first rule out any serious medical issues with a physician.

Stretching can help relax the feet and alleviate pain, but is especially important before heavy aerobic exercise. Stretching before such activities can help you avoid experiencing painful cramps or strained foot muscles. Stretches should be performed slowly and deliberately without forceful pulling. The stretch should be held for several seconds before relaxing.

A great way to stretch out and loosen up the foot muscles while sitting is to cross one leg over the other and pull the toes carefully back without overextending. Start by resting the left ankle on the right knee. With the left hand, gently flex the left foot by pulling back on the toes. Do not pull too hard; just hard enough to feel the stretch in the arch of the foot. Then point the toes of the left foot as far as you can. Rotate the motion of pointing with pulling back on the toes. This should relax and stretch the muscles on the bottom and the top of the foot. Doing this stretch ten to twenty times should bring relief. Repeat the whole process for the other foot by resting the right ankle on the left knee.

A stretch that focuses on the often injured Achilles tendon involves standing and facing a wall with your arms out and hands flat against the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping it flat against the floor. Move the other leg forward and lean toward the wall. You should feel a stretch through the back of your leg and your Achilles tendon, but do not push yourself too much. Stop when you feel a stretching sensation, and hold for 30 seconds. Ten repetitions may be done for each foot.

Stretching the feet is important for athletes or those performing aerobic exercise, but it can also help anyone with foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours standing and walking. Individuals who tend to their feet by regularly stretching every day should be able to minimize foot pain and prevent new problems from arising.

Monday, 07 January 2019 00:00

Hyperhidrosis of the feet, also termed plantar hyperhidrosis, is characterized by excessive sweating of the feet that can be onset by any cause, such as exercise, fever, or anxiety. Most people suffering from hyperhidrosis of the feet also experience hyperhidrosis of the hands, or palmar hyperhidrosis. Approximately 1-2% of Americans suffer from this disorder.

Sweating is a healthy process utilized by the body in order to cool itself and maintain a proper internal temperature, which is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. In individuals with hyperhidrosis, the sympathetic nervous system works in "overdrive", producing far more sweat than is actually needed.

Plantar hyperhidrosis is considered primary hyperhidrosis. Secondary hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating that occurs in an area other than the feet, hands, or armpits, and this indicates that is related to another medical condition, such as menopause, hyperthyroidism, or Parkinson's disease.

Symptoms of hyperhidrosis of the feet can include foot odor, athlete's foot, infections, and blisters. Because of the continual moisture, shoes and socks can rot which creates an additional foul odor and can ruin the material, requiring shoes and socks to be replaced frequently. In addition to the physical symptoms, emotional health is often affected as this disorder can be very embarrassing.

If left untreated, hyperhidrosis will usually persist throughout an individual's life. However, there are several treatment options available. A common first approach to treating hyperhidrosis of the feet is a topical ointment. Aluminum chloride, an ingredient found in antiperspirants, can be effective at treating hyperhidrosis if used in high concentration and applied to the foot daily. Some individuals can experience relief this way, while others encounter extreme irritation and are unable to use the product. Another procedure is the use of Botulinum Toxin A, commonly referred to as Botox. This is injected directly into the foot, and is effective at minimizing the sweat glands in the injected area. These injections must be repeated every 4 to 9 months.

If these treatments are ineffective, oral prescription medications may be taken in an effort to alleviate the symptoms. Again, some will experience relief while others do not. Going barefoot reportedly provides relief for most sufferers.

A final approach to combating hyperhidrosis of the feet is through surgery. Surgery has been less successful on patients with plantar hyperhidrosis than on those with palmar hyperhidrosis. It is only recommended when sweating is severe and other treatments have failed to work. This kind of surgery usually involves going into the central nervous system, and cutting nerves to stop the transmission of signals telling the foot to sweat.

Wednesday, 02 January 2019 00:00

Heel pain can be difficult to deal with, especially if you do not know what the underlying cause is. If you ignore your heel pain, the pain can magnify and potentially develop into a chronic condition. Depending on the location of your heel pain, you have developed a specific condition.  

One condition is plantar fasciitis.  Plantar fasciitis is caused by the inflammation of the plantar fascia, or the band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the base of the toes. The pain from this condition is initially mild but can intensify as more steps are taken when you wake up in the morning. To treat this condition, medication will likely be necessary. Plantar fasciitis is often associated with heel spurs; both require rest and special stretching exercises.

There are various options your podiatrist may suggest for heel pain.  Treatment options for heel pain typically include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which may reduce swelling and pain. Other options are physical therapy, athletic taping, and orthotics. In severe cases of heel pain, surgery may be required.

Preventing heel pain is possible.  If you are looking to prevent heel pain from developing in the future, be sure to wear shoes that fit you properly and do not have worn down heels or soles. Be sure to warm up properly before participating in strenuous activities or sports that place a lot of a stress on the heels. If you are experiencing any form of heel pain, speak with your podiatrist to determine the underlying cause and receive the treatment you need.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018 00:00

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.

Monday, 17 December 2018 00:00

Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity.  Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.

Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.

Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.

For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.

If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.

Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.  

Monday, 10 December 2018 00:00

Both running and walking are great exercises, but should a person wear the same shoes for both activities? The answer is no, because there is a difference between the way a person’s feet hit the ground when they are walking and when they are running. Therefore, the shoes for each activity are designed differently. Before you begin any exercise program it is always recommended that you speak with your doctor or podiatrist.

Walking is a low impact exercise that is often recommended by doctors to their patients. While walking is a simple activity, it still requires some degree of preparation. If you think about walking and how your feet strike the ground as you move, you will notice that your heel hits the ground first before your foot continues to roll forward and your next step begins. Because of this rolling motion, walking shoes are designed to be more flexible than running shoes. This flexibility helps the walker push off with each step taken.

Because the heel hits the ground first when you walk, walking shoes are designed to absorb most of the shock. Walking shoes should therefore have a beveled or angled heel. The angle of the heel helps absorb the shock and reduces pressure from the ankles. This is especially important for speed walkers, as their feet will hit the ground twice as often as the normal walker.

When people decide to run as a hobby or for their health, they must first realize that running is a high impact exercise. If not done with the proper equipment, running may cause damage to the feet and legs. Running shoes are designed to be more lightweight and to have thicker soles. The thicker soles act as shock absorbers for the rest of the body. Walking shoes often do not have the proper arch support that running shoes do.

A proper fitting shoe can make or break a runner or a walker. If the shoes are too big, their feet will slide back and forth inside the shoe and cause blisters. Whether you will be running or walking, the right equipment can make all of the difference in the world.

Monday, 03 December 2018 00:00

Blisters are a common ailment of people who wear shoes that are either too tight or rub against the feet in an uncomfortable way. Knowing the basics of blisters is important for understanding how they are formed and what treatments should be used for them.

A blister on the foot, or any other part of the body, 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 usually isn’t cause for concern. However, blisters can fill up with blood if they are deep enough and 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 or when your shoes do not fit you properly. Your feet are also more prone to blisters if they are moist, so keeping them dry and clean is one preventative step you can take.

Preventing infection should be the number one concern when treating blisters, as well as relieving the pain they can cause. Using a bandage 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. You can also take a sterilized pin and try to pop it yourself.

If the blister is filled with pus or blood, seeking treatment from a doctor is ideal. Antibiotics may need to be taken in order to completely eliminate the bacteria inside the blister. See a doctor to have an antibiotic prescribed.

The best way 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 bandage to an area where you think a blister is about to form is another way you can prevent them.

Monday, 26 November 2018 00:00

Heel spurs are the result of calcium deposits that cause bony protrusions on the underside of the heel. Heel spurs are usually painless, but they have the potential to cause heel pain. Heel spurs tend to be associated with plantar fasciitis, which is a condition that causes inflammation of the band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. They most often occur to athletes whose sports involve a lot of running and jumping.

Some risk factors for developing heel spurs include running and jogging on hard surfaces, being obese, wearing poorly fitting shoes, or having walking gait abnormalities.

It is possible to have a heel spur without showing signs of any symptoms. However, if inflammation develops at the point of the spur’s formation, you may have pain while walking or running. In terms of diagnosis, sometimes all a doctor needs to know is that the patient is experiencing a sharp pain localized to the heel to diagnose a heel spur. Other times, an x-ray may be needed to confirm the presence of a heel spur.

Heel spurs can be prevented by wearing well-fitting shoes that have shock-absorbent soles. You should also be sure that you are choosing the right shoe for the activity you want to partake in; for example, do not wear walking shoes when you want to go on a run. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight can be beneficial toward preventing heel spurs, as it will prevent an excess amount of pressure being placed on the ligaments.

There are a variety of treatment options for people with heel spurs. Some of these include stretching exercises, physical therapy, shoe inserts, or taping and strapping to rest stressed muscles and tendons. If you have heel pain that lasts longer than a month, don’t hesitate to seek help from a podiatrist. Your doctor can help you determine which treatment option is best for you.

Monday, 19 November 2018 00:00

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.

 

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