February Articles 2014

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 Rehabilitation for Athletes

There is no sport that completely prevents the foot or ankle from becoming injured. In fact, even simple activities such as darts and pool might cause injuries to the foot. When an athlete does suffer from a foot injury, he needs to find a way to get back on his feet right away. Immediate results may be desired, but they are not always possible.

All foot and ankle injuries deserve immediate attention. When the foot or the ankle gets injured, muscles surrounding the bones can weaken or atrophy through disuse. While the bones heal on their own, it takes a more concentrated effort for an athlete to regain full use of his feet and ankles. A doctor may recommend that a person go through a course of physical therapy. The course of physical therapy treatment uses simple, repetitive isometric exercises. The use of the exercises will cause the body to rebuild the muscles and tendons in the area over time and restore the full range of movement.

When selecting ankle and foot rehabilitation services, an athlete needs to find a licensed sports therapist (other physical therapists work with more generalized conditions, and while these kinds of physical therapists are dedicated to their job, they do not necessarily understand the special demands of the athlete). A good sports therapist will take their time with a patient, and make sure that he or she understands the problem and the options available for treatment. As long as the doctor expects a person to return to the sport which he enjoys, the sports physical therapist will recommend the exact exercises a person needs to get back in the game.

Although the professional athlete needs a trained sports therapist, an amateur athlete or the weekend player can benefit from foot rehabilitation services for athletes as well. An ankle or foot injury does not have to cause a person go give up the game he loves entirely, so long as he or she seeks out a sports therapist.

Physical therapy may not always heal certain injuries perfectly, but it will more quickly and effectively help the afflicted person get better.  Less severe injuries may only take a person out of his favorite sport just for a little while, if he or she sees a sports therapist. If a full recovery is possible, it is definitely worth it to check out ankle and foot rehabilitation services.


Keeping Children's Feet Healthy

As a parent, your most important job is taking care of your children in every possible way. You watch what they eat, you protect them from harm, but it is important to be proactive in taking care of their health, especially when it comes to their feet. Having healthy, well taken care of feet in childhood is crucial in helping eliminate problems later in life, especially in the back and legs. As children grow, their feet require different types of care. Here are some ways you can help keep your children's feet healthy, from birth to school age.

Babies require a lot of care in general, but don't forget their feet. Since babies don't walk yet, their feet can be easy to overlook, but it is still important to take care of them. In the first year of life a baby's feet grow and change very much, so it is important that you do not put any tight shoes or socks on your baby's feet. Let your baby stretch and kick her feet so he or she can feel comfortable.

When a baby turns into a toddler, they are now on the move and it is important that your toddler has comfortable and protective shoes to walk in. Now is the time you may notice different things about your child's feet, but know that children at this age are just getting the feel for walking, so don't be alarmed if they seem to walk funny. It is normal for a toddler to be unsteady on their feet.

When your child gets older and leaves the toddler stage behind, it is now important that you teach them how to take care of their own feet. Show them proper cleaning and hygiene so that their feet do not develop fungus or infection. Since children are constantly running and playing, it is also important to watch out for injury or pain. Children are still growing, and certain injuries can effect the bones growth and development so it is vital to have all injuries checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Comfortable shoes that cushion the foot and provide protection from hours of rough play are highly recommended.

Children and babies are constantly growing and developing, and it is your job as a parent to make sure that nothing is hindering their ability to mature at a normal rate. This includes properly taking care of the feet, as healthy feet are important in order to live a normal, fulfilling life.



Arthritic Foot Care

The average person walks about 75,000 miles during their lifetime, which puts a lot of pressure and stress on your feet. As you age, you lose flexibility and elasticity in the 26 bones and 30 different joints located in your feet, as well as weakening your shock absorbers. Adding arthritis to this mix makes things worse, with inflammation and distorted joints, which is why arthritic foot care is a crucial part of your daily routine at this stage of your life.

The last thing you need if you suffer from arthritis in your feet is for additional, painful conditions to arise, such as bunions, neuroma, or hammertoe. Buying well-fitting shoes, shoes with a lower heel and more room, and shoes that have better arch support are good places to start. Because arthritis will cause you to lose the arch in your foot, it is highly recommended to buy shoes that can support your arch.

On top of getting enough arch support, you need to have a comfortable fit as well. Leaving a finger width between the back of the shoe and your foot is an easy way to measure and gauge the proper size, and having a square or rounded toe box in the front will help even more. It is also recommended to use shoes that have a rubber sole, as this provides a cushion and acts as a shock absorber. It also provides flexibility for the ball of your foot when you push off your heel to walk.

Shoes are not the only way to get proper arthritic foot care though. Exercise helps a lot and will not only strengthen your muscles and joints, but help prevent further injury and pain. For example, stretching the Achilles tendon in the back of your heel will give your foot added mobility, reducing pain because a lack of mobility causes stress in this area. Another good example is massaging the ball of your foot and your toes from top to bottom.

As previously mentioned, one of the best exercises to do is stretching your Achilles tendon. To do this, simply lean against a wall with your palms flat, place one foot forward and one foot back, making sure both feet are flat on the floor, then lean forward, bending your forward knee towards the wall but keeping your back knee straight and unbent. You will feel your Achilles tendon and calf muscles stretch. Another great exercise is the big toe stretch that alleviates stiffness. Place a rubber band around your big toes, keep your feet together, and pull your toes away from each other. You can also place a rubber band around all the toes of one foot and then try to separate them, stretching them out.

Aside from stretching and exercise, pain can be alleviated with non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drugs, heat, and ultrasounds. Topical medicines with capsaicin can also help. So far, there is no completely pain free remedy for arthritic feet, but following some of this advice can go a long way in helping you stay as pain free as possible.

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