December Articles 2014

How to Prevent Running Injuries

Many common running injuries are caused by overuse and overtraining. Several common injuries can occur due to running. When the back of the kneecap starts wearing away and starts causing pain in the knee, this is commonly referred to as runner’s knee. Runner’s knee can occur because of decreased strength in the quadricep muscles or shoes that do not offer proper support to the inside of the forefoot. Runner’s knee usually is treated with strengthening exercises focusing on the quad muscle and sports orthotic. To prevent runner’s knee, efforts should be focused on hip strengthening. Physical therapy is also beneficial in helping to learn the best exercises to heal runner’s knee. To prevent runner’s knee, strengthen the quad muscles to keep the kneecap aligned.

Overtraining is one cause of a common running injury called iliotibial band syndrome, which occurs when the iliotibial band gets irritated, causing pain and discomfort to the outside knee area. Another common running injury is known as plantar fasciitis, which occurs when the bone in the foot becomes inflamed and irritated. This injury primarily causes pain in the foot. Causes can include a high arch, incorrect footwear, tight muscles and flat feet. The best way to avoid plantar fasciitis is stretching and proper footwear.

Stress fractures are a common injury for runners. These fractures can occur because of overtraining, lack of calcium or running style. In runners, it is common for stress fractures to occur in several locations including the inner bone of the leg, the thighbone, the bone at the base of the spine and the toe bones in the foot. The best approach to preventing stress fractures are proper footwear maintenance and running on a surface with enough “give” to absorb some of the shock produced during running.

Besides overtraining, other causes of these common running injuries are poorly fitting footwear, irregular biomechanics, and lack of flexibility and strength. The best way to avoid running injuries is to prevent them. Fortunately, each of these common running injuries can be prevented. To avoid running injuries it is highly recommended to wear only footwear that fits properly and that suits your needs. Running shoes are the only protective gear that runners have to safeguard them from injury; therefore, choosing the correct footwear for running is important. It is important, too, to think about other aspects of your running routine like training schedules, flexibility and strengthening, and tailor them to your needs in order to minimize the possibility of injury. Regular stretching before and after running should be considered also when trying to avoid running injuries. Stretching keeps muscles limber resulting in greater flexibility.

 

Nerve Disorders of the Foot and Ankle

Similar to well-known nerve disorders in the hands, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve disorders that affect the foot and ankle occur in patients for reasons ranging from stress to genetics. Nerve disorders of the foot should be addressed right away because they may be immobilizing in serious cases. Two of the most common nerve disorders of the foot and ankle are Interdigital Neuroma and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.


Interdigital Neuroma is caused by localized inflammation of one of the nerves that controls toe sensitivity in the frontal area of the foot. This inflammation is generally only found in the second or third interspace, and any other symptoms similar to Neuroma on other digits should be checked against other disorders. Symptoms include chronic burning or tingling sensations between the affected toes which can, at times, migrate to the toes themselves. This pain is often increased by walking, running, or by wearing shoes that compress the toes, such as high heels. A doctor should be consulted if this pain is chronic and if the symptoms get worse.

Typical examinations to determine the presence of Neuroma include radiographs, MRIs, and even bone scans of the affected area. Bone scans are only required if degeneration of bone is suspected, however. Surgery is often not required to alleviate the symptoms of Neuroma, and in many cases functional orthotics can be used to alleviate the stress of constant weight on the affected toes. Surgery is recommended for those patients that suffer from symptoms for 6 months or more, so reporting symptoms early can increase the rate of non-surgical recovery.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, a condition that is less common than Interdigital Neuroma, is similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in that it is caused by a compression of the nerve caused by any number of factors (mostly associated with excess pronation). Typically seen in those that have either flatfeet or valgus heel positions, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome has patients complaining of moderate to severe ankle pain that starts along the bottom of the foot and often proceeds to the calf. Some more extreme cases occur with partial numbness and even atrophy of the foot and surrounding muscles.

If there is a good chance that someone has Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, an EMG test is often used to diagnose the condition.  If the diagnosis is positive, an MRI can be used to identify the compression of the nerve. Treatment with NSAIDS, functional orthotics, and rest off of the feet is often prescribed, but again, long standing symptoms require surgery, as do exacerbated symptoms caused by lesions present between nerves.

 
 

Hammertoe: No Walk in the Park!

Hammertoe is a painful deformity of the second, third, or fourth toe, frequently caused by improper mechanics—the way a person walks or the shoes they wear that do not allow room for the deformity. Similar to mallet toe and claw toe, hammertoe involves different joints of the toe and foot. Shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot, or have excessively high heels, can cause of hammertoe. Improperly sized shoes force the toes into a bent position for long periods, causing the muscles to shorten and bend the toes into the hammertoe deformity.

Other causes of hammertoe may be complications from RA (rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or CVA (cerebral vascular accident). Symptoms of hammertoe include, but may not be limited to, pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformity, and calluses or corns from toes abrading one another.

A patient experiencing symptoms of hammertoe should seek examination by a physician, specifically a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat disorders of the foot. If the doctor finds the involved toes have retained some flexibility, treatment may involve simple exercise, physical therapy, and a better fit to shoes worn by the patient. Treatment often targets controlling the mechanics, such as walking, that cause hammertoe by using custom orthotics.

In more advanced cases, where the toes have become rigid and inflexible, the doctor may suggest surgery. The operation would consist of incising the toe to relieve pressure on the tendons. The doctor may re-align tendons and remove small pieces of bone in order to straighten the toe. The insertion of pins may be necessary to fix bones in the proper position while the toe heals. Usually the patient is able to return home on the day of surgery.

If surgery is necessary, it is important to follow the postoperative directions of your physician. Theses may include various stretches, attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet, or picking up marbles with your toes. Striving to wear shoes with low heels and ample toe space will ensure healthy feet and toes. Avoid closed shoes and high heels. Laced shoes tend to be roomier and more comfortable. Shoes with a minimum of one half inch space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe will provide adequate space, relieve pressure on your toes, and prevent hammertoe from re-occurring.

Some tips on feet may include purchasing shoes at mid-day as your feet are smaller in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Ensure that she shoes you buy are both the same size and have the store stretch shoes at painful points to provide for optimum comfort.

 

Dealing with Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle

Stress fractures in the foot and ankle happen when muscles become weak due to too much or too little use. Stress fractures cause the muscles to stop cushioning the foot and ankles from the impact of hitting the ground. Since there is nothing to protect the bones of the foot, they absorb the full impact of each step you take. This additional stress causes little cracks, or stress fractures, to form in the bones that are being pressured.

Stress fractures are common in highly active people, especially athletes. Basketball, tennis or and gymnastics are activities where stress fractures occur more frequently. However, anyone can receive a stress fracture. Normally sedentary individuals who suddenly begin an intensive high impact work out may incur a stress fracture. This is because their muscles are not resistant enough to handle and cushion the intensity of the activity. Osteoporosis patients may also suffer stress fractures because the disease weakens the victim’s bones, making it easier for them to wear and tear.

Pain from stress fractures occurs in the site area of the fracture. It may be either constant or intermittent, causing sharp or dull pain accompanied by swelling and/or tenderness. Engagement in any kind of high impact activity will only exacerbate the pain. In fact, it can even cause a full fracture, especially when the area is not fully healed. Full fractures are much more serious, and can prevent you from using your foot at all.

Treatment varies depending on the patient and the degree of his or her injury. The most important treatment is to rest the injured foot. Some fractures may heal quicker with brief rest, while others need a longer rest period and utilizing crutches. In some cases surgery is required to install support pins around the fracture to aid healing.

To prevent stress fractures, be sure to get plenty of Calcium and Vitamin-D in your diet. This helps keep your bones strong and fortifies their resistance. If you begin a new regimen that involves high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up the proper muscular strength. For example, if you wish to walk every day, you could ride a bike on some of those days to take stress off your feet. Also, make sure to wear supportive shoes that provide adequate protection.

If you experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If these symptoms do not go relieve themselves, consult with an orthopedic specialist. Taking these measures can help prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue the activities  you enjoy.

 

Diabetic Foot Care

Millions of people are affected with diabetes each year. Diabetes damages blood vessels in all parts of the body, especially the feet. The legs and feet may develop slow blood flow, which causes neuropathy (nerve damage). Once a diabetic patient develops neuropathy, it is important that the feet are well taken care of, or else the lower limbs may have to be amputated. This only happens in drastic cases, but it shows how seriously diabetic foot care should be taken.

It is very important to always wash and dry the feet thoroughly, especially in between the toes, when diabetic. Secondly, examining your feet and toes for redness or sores must be done, even if you do not feel pain.  You may also want to examine your feet from the bottom. Try to avoid wearing colored socks to prevent infections that may occur from the die. Additionally, well-fitting socks are highly recommended.

A diabetic’s physician should always monitor their Hemoglobin A1C levels to test how well the blood sugars are being controlled during the past 3 months. It is very important to keep blood sugar levels at normal range, 70-110mg/dl. In addition to giving advice about everyday eating habits and foot care, a physician may prescribe medicine to help with neuropathy of a diabetic patient. It is also advised to see a podiatrist if experiencing any feet conditions. Toe nails may also need to be taken care of by a podiatrist, since some patients may cut too deep around the cuticles, causing infection.

A person can take care of their feet at home by following the instructions of their physician. Using creams on one’s feet is also an effective way to heal dryness. When using tools to remove calluses, use caution, as severe diabetics may not be able to feel pain on their feet. If any complications arise do not hesitate to call a podiatrist.

On a daily basis, diabetic feet must be checked. If you are ever concerned about something, contact your health care professional. You never want to wait until a wound gets too bad to treat. If left untreated, gangrene may develop. Gangrene is a serious infection that can cause in diabetics that can lead to sepsis or amputation. It is also important for diabetics to be on the lookout for ulcers. Ulcers are sores that develop from tissue loss on the skin. They can be quite painful and require intensive treatment. Early treatment and everyday inspection are imperative to staying healthy.