March Articles 2013

Biomechanics in Podiatry

Podiatric biomechanics is a particular sector of specialty podiatry with licensed practitioners who are trained to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and lower leg. Biomechanics deals with the forces that act against the body causing an interference with the biological structure and focuses on the movement of the ankle, the foot and the forces that interact with them.

At some time in our lives we will all experience foot problems, regardless of our lifestyle or age, and we all take our mobility for granted until we are in pain. Twists or turns can cause problems and apply stress to the feet, and that pain will spread from the foot structure to the surrounding tissues. The pain will concentrate in the foot and ankle, but may eventually spread up into the knees, hips and back.

The history of biomechanics dates back to the BC era in Egypt where evidence of professional foot care has been recorded. Afterwards, during the first century AD, corns on feet were recorded as specifically growing on feet and toes. In 1974 biomechanics gained a higher profile from the studies of Merton Root, who claimed that by changing or controlling the forces between the ankle and the foot, corrections of conditions could be implemented to gain strength and coordination to the area. His basic principles of thermoplastic foot orthotics are still in use throughout the industry today.

Modern technology improvements are based on past theories and therapeutic processes providing a better understanding of podiatry concepts for biomechanics. Computers provide accurate determinations about the forces, movements and patterns of the foot and lower legs with the most important information captured. Today’s knowledge of detailed measurement of external and internal forces in the foot is critical to the individual’s treatment. Like most health industries, precise determinations assist the practitioner in diagnosing and prescribing the best treatment for health improving results.

Advances in materials and more awareness of biomechanics have developed enhanced corrective methods, offering further options for foot-related injuries. Shoe orthotics options have expanded to treat walking inability, helping to realign the posture deviations caused by hip or back health occurrences. Attention to posture and foot mechanics uses individual insoles to position the foot, aligning the ankle and leg. The corrected positioning comforts the pressure and helps to ease the pain. Understanding foot biomechanics can help improve and eliminate pain, stopping further stress to the foot. However, these results can only happen if one seeks a podiatrist who specializes in biomechanics.


Pregnancy and Foot Health

Many pregnant women complain about foot pain while they are expecting, primarily caused by weight gain and hormonal changes taking place in the body. By understanding how pregnancy impacts the health of a woman's feet, a pregnant woman can take action to keep her feet as healthy and comfortable as possible.

Because a woman's weight changes during pregnancy, more pressure is brought to bear on both the legs and the feet. This weight shift can cause two major foot problems: over-pronation, also known as flat feet, as well as edema, which is swelling of the feet. Over-pronation occurs when the arch of the foot flattens, causing the foot to roll inwards when the individual is walking, and can aggravate the plantar fascia tissues located along the bottom of the feet. If these tissues become inflamed, a pregnant woman can experience pain in the heel of the foot as well as severe foot pain while walking or standing. Swelling of the feet, or edema, often occurs in the later stages of pregnancy, caused by slow circulation and water retention, and may turn the feet a light purple color.

To keep feet in good health and prevent over-pronation, pregnant women should avoid walking barefoot and be sure they are wearing shoes that offer good arch support. Often a device known as an orthotic can be added to regular footwear in order to provide additional support for the feet during pregnancy. Any expectant mother whose feet hurt should first check to see if the shoes she is wearing are old, worn out and not offering the arch of the foot the proper support necessary to support and distribute the weight of her body during pregnancy.

To treat edema of the feet, a good start is to wear quality footwear which offers support and good circulation. Keep feet elevated whenever possible by using a foot stool while seated. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water to prevent water retention in the feet. Any swelling that occurs in only one foot should be examined as soon as possible by a doctor.

Good foot health during pregnancy can help expectant mothers avoid foot pain that leads to other health problems. Massaging the feet and doing regular gentle exercise like walking aids in foot health by contributing to good circulation. Supportive shoes are also a good investment that will support foot health during pregnancy.



Foot Health: The 4 Differences between Walking and Running Shoes

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

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

Another thing about walking shoes is that your heel hits the ground first, therefore it absorbs most of the shock. This is why walking shoes need to have a beveled or angled heel. The angle of the heel helps to absorb some of the shock instead of putting all of the pressure on 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 that if not done with the proper equipment, could cause damage to their feet and legs. Running shoes are designed to be more light weight and to have thicker soles. The thicker soles act as shock absorbers for the rest of the body. For this reason alone it is never recommended that a person wear walking shoe to run in. However, it's fine if you want to walk in running shoes. Walking shoes most often do not have the proper arch support that runners do.

One very important thing to remember is that a proper fit can make or break a runner or a walker. If a runner or walker’s shoes are too big, their feet will slide back and forth inside the shoe and cause blisters. What ever your sport, running or walking, the right equipment can make all of the difference in the world.



Athlete's Foot: The Sole Story

Do you suffer from itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet? It could be athlete's foot. Athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis, can be extremely contagious, often infecting shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, and anywhere else feet might contact. It's commonly found in public changing areas and bathrooms, dormitory style living quarters, around locker rooms and public swimming pools. "Commons" areas in prisons and residential care facilities are frequently caught feeding the fungus as well. One step in the wrong direction can be enough to start the fire that can be tremendously difficult to treat.

Athlete's foot is most often caused by the same fungus that causes ringworm (tinea). It can be spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by coming in contact with other objects or body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Although the feet are more frequently assumed to get athlete's foot, tinea can invade other parts of the body as well so long as the proper growing conditions are met.

Tinea thrives in a dark, warm, and moist environment. Body parts that are often infected include the hands, groin, and scalp. Although many people never experience athlete's foot, around 70% of the population suffers from tinea at some point in their lifetime. Like most ailments, some people are more likely to acquire this fungal infection than others. People with a history of tinea or other skin infections are more likely to suffer from recurrent, or even additional, unrelated infections. The extent to which a person is tormented by the fungus can vary greatly as well.

While some people are never even aware that they have been infected with athlete's foot, others are pestered with mild to moderate symptoms like dry and flaking skin, itching, and redness. Still others are bothered by more severe symptoms including cracked and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, and even pain when walking. In the worst cases, tinea can cause blistering as well.

The treatment for athlete's foot begins with prevention. Changes in the environment infected with athlete's foot can prevent spreading. Keeping the area that is infected clean and dry with the use of medicated cleansers and powders is essential. Allowing the area to breathe is important in the treatment as well. Exposure to cool air and light can make conditions undesirable for tinea. Treating the infected area with miconazole, tolnaftate, or other medicated creams, ointments, or sprays not only helps to kill the fungus, but helps prevent recurrences as well. White vinegar-based foot soaks can also be beneficial. Seeing a podiatrist is often a good idea when treating athlete's foot, since more often than not, other skin infections can develop from the initial infection, and recurrences are common.


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