December Articles 2012

Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are most commonly the result of calcium deposits on the back of the foot where the heel is. They may also be the result of small fragments of bone breaking off one section of the foot and attaching to the back of the foot. Heel spurs can also be bone growth on the back of the foot. When this is the case, the bone growth tends to grow in the direction of the arch of the foot.

Heel spurs are most commonly diagnosed in older individuals. Younger individuals also suffer from heel spurs, but the pain associated with the condition usually intensifies in aging. Heel spurs have the propensity to inflict a great deal of pain, although the heel spur itself does is not always the cause of the pain. Heel spurs are often associated with plantar fasciitis.

The pain that is associated with bone spurs can be traced to the placing of weight on the feet. As the individual stands or walks their weight is placed on the feet, causing the bone spur to press on and poke the other bones and tissues in the feet. This may result in severe pain. As the condition continues to persist the tissues in the feet will become tender and overly sensitive.

If an individual is suffering from heel spurs and their related pain, there are a number of treatments that may be undertaken. These treatments range from medicines, surgery, and herbal treatments. One of the simplest ways to ease the pain and discomfort of heel pain is to use special foot supports. These insoles are placed directly in the individual's shoes. They relieve the pain and tension that is placed on the foot by offering a soft gel pad for the weight to be evenly distributed without causing pain.

There are also a number of exercises that some believe may relieve or actually reverse heel spur growth and therefore stop the pain. One such exercise has the ball of the foot against the wall while balance is maintained on the heel of the foot. The individual then shifts their weight towards the wall, causing a rubbing of the heel spur. Other exercises and stretches may also be performed that can help loosen and relax muscles and tendons in the feet, relieving pain. Applying ice packs and taking anti-inflammatory medication may also help. Night splints may be worn while sleeping to keep the foot stretched out, which may make the foot less painful in the morning. 


Barefoot Running

A new trend in running and jogging has popped up recently, called barefoot running. Barefoot running is a popular and growing trend that is just what it sounds – running without shoes. Before deciding to do any running without shoes, it's best to understand how this kind of running affects the feet.

Running without shoes changes the motion of running. Most running is done by landing on the heel of the feet. Running barefoot requires a different way of running; in a barefoot stride landing is done on the front part of the feet. Because of this, the impact shifts from the heels to the front feet. Runners also shorten their strides to create a softer landing.

Running barefoot does have its advantages. When running and landing on the front feet, the impact on the feet and ankle is reduced, which may reduce the incidence of stress injuries. It strengthens muscles in the feet, and also strengthens muscles in the ankles and lower legs that aren't usually worked. Overall balance of the body is improved and there is greater sensory input from the feet to the rest of the body, making overall position and motion less stressful on the body. It has been found that in countries in which some of the population regularly wear shoes and some do not, numbers of foot and ankle injuries are much higher in those who wear shoes.

People hearing about barefoot running for the first time are skeptical about it, and there are good reasons for skepticism. Running barefoot certainly has its drawbacks, the obvious being no protection of the feet when running. This makes it likely that when runners land on sharp or rough objects,  scrapes, bruises, and cuts on feet will result. Blisters will form when beginning this kind of running especially, you may have plantar fascia problems. Landing on the front feet constantly also increases the risk of getting Achilles tendonitis.

So what can runners do to make barefoot running safe? It’s best to make a slow transition from running shoes to barefoot running. The body is used to wearing shoes so to slowly transition to bare feet, start by walking barefoot for a distance and then increase walking distance. Once the feet begin to adjust, try walking and then jogging and gradually increase the distance. If you have foot problems talk to the doctor first before attempting barefoot running. When starting out, it may also be helpful to begin by running on pavement or other consistent surfaces to avoid sharp or rough objects. Minimalist running shoes may also be an option, as they allow for many of the benefits of barefoot running while also protecting the feet from cuts and scrapes.



Bunions

The term bunion refers to an enlargement of the base joint of the toe, the connection to the foot. This enlargement may be formed of swollen tissue or a bony growth, and is caused by the shifting of the bones in the big toe inward, toward the other toes of the foot. The area around the base of the big toe may become inflamed, red, and painful.

Genetic factors are important in the formation of bunions – people who get bunions are usually genetically predisposed to this bone displacement, and may cause its onset by wearing improperly fitting shoes, or by running or walking in a way that causes stress to the feet. Another common cause for bunions is wearing high heeled shoes. The weight of the body in these shoes pushes the toes into an unnatural position, possibly causing bone displacement.

A podiatrist who specializes in foot structure and bio-mechanics 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 remove the pressure on the bunion and reduce pain. High heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time as this type of shoe generally pushes the big toe outward toward the smaller toes. 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 may rearrange 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 do not put undue pressure on the toe as the big toe can easily move back to its orientation toward the smaller toes.



Foot Surgery

If noninvasive or less invasive procedures have failed you when it comes to problems with your feet, you may need to start thinking about getting foot surgery. There are many reasons why a person may need surgery on their feet, which include but are not limited to, problems with arthritis that have caused severe bone issues within your feet, deformities of the foot such as bone spurs and bunions, congenital malformations such as club foot and flat feet, and reconstruction to attend to injuries caused by accidents. Anyone of any age, race, or gender can undergo foot surgery if they feel the need to correct these problems and there are no limiting factors keeping people from getting their feet properly treated.

Depending on what needs to be done, there are many different types of surgeries to correct any issues you might have. For example, a bunionectomy is a procedure that will eliminate any growths on your feet, such as bunions, and have them removed via the surgery. If nerve pain and damage is what you are suffering from, then you may need to undergo procedures that will target the tissues that surround the painful nerve and potentially have them removed. If your bones need to be fused together or realigned, then surgical fusion of your feet is another option you might consider.

As mentioned before, many times when these issues are first discovered, other noninvasive or less invasive procedures are carrier out first before any surgery takes place. However, if all else fails, then surgery is the best option for you.

There are some obvious benefits to having surgery done on your feet. The first being that you will now be relieved of any pain in the foot or surrounding area, which means you can get back to doing activities you previously were unable to do. The second is that once you have completed your surgery, the problem will more often than not be gone forever, eliminating any recurring issues or pain.

Foot surgery techniques continue to advance yearly as better and more technologies become available for you. For example, endoscopic surgery is just one of the many advancements that have been made in the field of podiatric surgery. Many procedures are now able to take a less invasive route by using very small incisions and smaller, more refined instruments. On top of this, recovery time for surgeries has been significantly shortened leading to an overall positive advancement for all podiatric surgeries.



Heel Pain

Heel pain is a stressful condition that effects day to day activities. Running and walking causes stress on the heel because the heel is the part of the foot that hits the ground first. This means that the heel is taking on your entire weight. Diagnosis and treatments for heel pain can be easily found through your podiatrist.

One of the main causes of heel pain is a condition known as plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that extends along the bottom of the foot, from the toe to the bottom of the heel. A rip or tear in this ligament can cause inflammation of these tissues, resulting in heel pain. People who do not wear proper fitting shoes are often at risk of developing problems such as plantar fasciitis. Unnecessary stress from ill fitting shoes, weight change, excessive running, and wearing non-supportive shoes on hard surfaces are all causes of plantar fasciitis.

Achilles tendonitis is another cause of heel pain. Similar to plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the Achilles tendon will cause heel pain due to stress fractures and muscle tearing. A lack of flexibility of the ankle and heel is an indicator of Achilles tendonitis. If left untreated, this condition can lead to plantar fasciitis and cause even more pain on your heel.

A third cause of heel pain is a heel spur. A heel spur occurs when the tissues of the plantar fascia undergo a great deal of stress, leading to a separation of the ligament from the heel bone entirely. This results in a pointed fragment of bone on the ball of the foot, known as a heel spur.

Treatments for heel pain are easy and effective as long as problems are addressed quickly. The most common solution is simply taking stress off the feet, particularly off of the heel. This will ease the pain and allow the tendons and ligaments to relax. In the case of both plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, icing will reduce swelling of any part of the foot and anti-inflammatory medication is highly recommended. Properly fitting your shoes and wearing heel pads or comfort insoles will also reduce the risk of developing heel pain. Stretching before and after exercises such as running will help the foot muscles prepare for stress and lower the chances of inflammatory pain. In extreme cases, relieving heel   pain might require surgery. Always make sure to discuss these symptoms and treatment options with your podiatrist to keep yourself active and pain free.
 

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