September Articles 2013
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.
What to Know About a Broken Toe
Although most people try to avoid foot trauma such as banging, stubbing, or dropping heavy objects on their feet, the unfortunate fact is that it is a common occurrence. Given the fact that toes are positioned in front of the feet, they typically sustain the brunt of such trauma. When trauma occurs to a toe, the result can be a painful break (fracture). Another type of trauma that can break a toe is repeated activity that places stress on the toe for prolonged periods of time.
Broken toes can be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. Symptoms of minor toe fractures include throbbing pain, swelling, bruising on the skin and toenail, and the inability to move the toe with ease. Severe toe fractures require medical attention and are indicated when the broken toe appears crooked or disfigured, when there is tingling or numbness in the toe, when the injured person experiences fever or chills throughout their body, and when there is an open, bleeding wound present on the toe.
Generally, a minor toe break will heal without long-term complications, but it is important to discontinue activities that put pressure on the toe. It is best to stay off of the injured toe with the affected foot elevated on pillows. Swelling can be alleviated by placing an ice pack on the broken toe for 15 minutes every two hours during the first two days after the fracture. The broken toe should be immobilized by placing a small cotton ball between the injured toe and the toe beside it, then taping the two toes together with medical tape.
Severe toe fractures may be treated with a splint, cast, and in some cases, minor surgery; especially when the big toe has been broken. Due to its position and the pressure it endures with daily activity, future complications can occur if the big toe is not properly treated. Pain associated with minor toe fractures can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications, and prescription pain killers may be necessary for severe toe fractures.
The healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. In severe cases where the toe becomes infected or requires surgery, healing time can take up to eight weeks or more. While complications associated with a broken toe are immediately apparent, it is important to note that there are rare cases when additional complications, such as osteoarthritis, can develop over time.
What Are Ankle/Foot Orthotics?
Orthotics is a medical field concerned with the design, manufacture and use of aids used to support weak limbs or direct the proper function of limbs, in this case the foot and ankle. Ankle-foot orthotics, or AFOs, are braces worn at the ankle that encompass some or all of the foot. Diseases that affect the musculature or weaken the affected area require AFOs to strengthen the muscles or train in the proper direction. Tight muscles that need to be lengthened and loosened also benefit from AFOs.
When we think of diseases that affect the musculature we think of the big boys: muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, polio and multiple sclerosis. We rarely think that arthritis and stroke can affect the musculature or that there are some who "toe in". But whatever trauma affects that musculature, there is a way to correct it. The orthosis helps to control range of motion, provide support by stabilizing walk, correct deformities and manage pain load. A podiatrist would be consulted for those who "toe in", for instance, or an arthritis sufferer whose ankles suffer through walking on the job or perhaps a victim of stroke whose musculature is wasting away and requires strength.
Before the advent of modern orthotic devices, it wasn’t uncommon to see polio victims wearing metal braces from mid thigh to the bottom of the foot, or children who "toed in" wearing metal braces around their ankle and foot. However, both designs and materials have improved dramatically, allowing for new levels of comfort, functionality, and appearance. Many orthotics are now made from plastics in the shape of an L and designed to fit inside a corrective shoe. These can be rigid, buckling at the calf and extending the length of the foot to support the ankle. This same design except with a hinged ankle provides support while walking by normalizing the gait. In the past boots lined with leather and fiberboard provided the rigidity needed for correction and support. Now corrective shoes are available with built up soles to correct the gait or manage pain by sharing it with another area when the foot spreads during walking.
The podiatrist would prescribe this orthosis in the rigid L shape because the foot moves on a hinge. If the hinge isn't functioning as intended due to an injury or malformation, the muscles tighten up, thus making it difficult to flex the foot. When we walk, the foot flexes and muscles stretch. This brace or AFO would support the ankle and musculature during flexion of the foot, in much the same way a knee brace works. Corrective shoes are for people whose feet hit the ground backward, causing tight muscles and arch problems. Wedges and rocker bars on the heels correct the step to heel first and rock onto the ball of the foot, resulting in relaxed musculature and strengthened ankles.
Appearance also counts when we consider a particular support device, especially if the item is intended for regular, daily wear. The L shaped orthotic is contoured to the calf and flesh-colored, fitting into a sneaker or dress shoe. As present, corrective shoes are more attractive than past models, enabling patients wear such devices with greater comfort and confidence.
Broken Foot Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
A broken foot is when one of the bones located in the foot fractures, or breaks. About 10% of broken bones occur in the foot.
Bones typically break when an object crushes, bends, or stretches the bone. In the foot, the location of the broken bone is usually indicative of how the break occurred. Toes usually break when something hard and solid is kicked with great force. Broken Heels are usually a result of falling from a great height and landing on the feet. Other broken bones in the feet can occur because of a twisted or sprained ankle. Most of the time, a broken foot results from a sudden accident or injury. Sometimes small cracks can form over time in the bones of the feet from repeated stress. These cracks are called stress fractures and usually only occur in athletes that put a lot of pressure on their feet, like runners, dancers, and gymnasts.
Symptoms of a broken foot typically include pain, swelling, bruising, and redness. Occasionally the pain of a broken foot may be so severe that walking is not an option. However, this depends on the location of the broken bone within the foot. Broken toes are usually less painful than broken heels or other bones within the foot. A foot that is blue, numb, cold, misshapen, cut or deformed can occur in more serious cases of broken feet. Those who are experiencing any of these symptoms, or suspect that they have a broken foot, should seek medical attention in a center where x-rays can be performed.
Prior to seeking the attention of a doctor, several steps can be taken at home in order to reduce pain and swelling. Stabilization and elevation of the broken foot should be the number one priority. It is important not to move the foot, so any type of homemade splint will work well. However, any splint that causes the foot to become more painful, or cut off blood circulation should be removed. Ice can also decrease swelling and alleviate some of the pain that a broken foot can cause.
In a medical center, treatment for a broken bone will differ depending on which bone in the foot is fractured and depending on what caused the break. Some broken feet will require the patient to use crutches, while others will require splits or casts. More severe cases may require surgery on the foot to repair the broken bone or bones.
Flip-flops and Feet
Flip-flops are some of the most comfortable and convenient kinds of shoes there are. They let you freely move your toes, aren't constrictive, and allow your feet to breathe. They can also be worn with almost any attire, and match most clothing styles. Unfortunately, wearing flip-flops can also be very dangerous. These sorts of shoes can harm your feet in more ways than you may think.
Although they are comfortable, constant flip-flop use can lead to problems with the ankles, hips, and lower back if worn on a long-term basis. This is because people walk much differently in flip-flops than they do in other shoes like sneakers. Their natural gait is being forced to change, throwing the body off and causing stress to different parts of the body. Flip-flops can also lead to problems in the arches of your feet, and pain in the balls of your feet. There is little to no support provided by flip-flops, so some parts of the foot undergo much more stress than normal.
Flip-flops can cause more obvious short term problems as well, like ankle sprains and frequent blisters. Because these shoes are relatively weak and can easily bend while walking, wearers are far more likely to trip and hurt their ankles. Flip-flops can also cause bad blisters, because their straps are constantly rubbing up against the foot. Additionally, someone wearing flip-flops is more prone to infections, due to the openness of the shoe. It very easy to scrape and cut your foot when wearing flip-flops because they offer little protection for the foot. If left untreated and uncovered, these same cuts can get dirtied and infected as flip-flops wearers walk around.
In order to avoid this, make sure to get a pair of flip-flops that will keep your feet as safe as possible. When looking to purchase flip-flops, you should check that the actual sole is sturdy and firm. The flip-flops are too floppy if the sole droops and wiggles a great deal when lifted off the floor. These will offer very little support, and may lead to other problems like tripping.
If you only purchase flip-flops made of high quality, sturdy materials, you won't have to worry about this. Although they will cost a little more, flip-flops made of these materials will last longer, and will protect your feet more so than a cheap pair of flip-flops. Also, make sure to buy from a reliable brand name. You can often find relatively cheap shoes from these companies, and once you have bought them you know they will last.
You can still wear your favorite flip-flops, just avoid wearing them every day of the week, or for extended periods of time. It is also recommended that you replace flip-flops every three or four months, in order to be sure that they provide maximum protection to your feet.
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